Ed Delahanty 1867-1903
LF, 1B, 2B
Philadelphia Quakers/Phillies 1888-1889; 1891-1901
Cleveland Infants 1890
Washington Nationals 1901-1903
Nicknames: Big Ed, The King of Swat
“…the hardest man in the league for pitchers to puzzle.” – Cincinnati Reds pitcher Red Ehret
Career WAR: 69.5
Best Season: 1896 .397/.472/.631/1.103 190 OPS+ 44 2B 13 HR 126 RBI 62 BB 22 K
Known For: Primarily the way he died.
Hoping to get back into the National League and hoping to see his estranged wife, he took a train bound for New York. It was a long train ride from Detroit to NYC, and Big Ed decided to down five shots of whiskey. The liquor made him uncontrollable. He pulled a woman by her ankles out of her berth, then began threatening passengers with a razor. Finally, the conductor decided to stop the train near Niagara Falls before crossing into the US. He told Delahanty to not make trouble because he was still in Canada. The drunken Delahanty slurred, “I don’t care whether I’m in Canada or dead.” It was a prescient reply. The conductor kicked him off the train, and a few minutes later Delahanty, trying to cross the train bridge into the United States, fell to his death below. There are some people who believe he was murdered and some who think he committed suicide. But most people think that one of the greatest ballplayers of all time simply made a bad drunken decision, and his body was found a week later at the base of Niagara Falls.
He Played Some Ball Too: Batted better than .400 three times, led the league in slugging percentage four times. He was also known as a “fleet-footed, rifle-armed” left fielder.
Double Agent: Served as an agent for the new American League in 1901 by helping to facilitate the defection of at least nine Philadelphia Phillies to the new league. As a result he (and the other jumpers) were banned from playing organized baseball in the state of Pennsylvania.
A HBT Meme A Century Before The Internet: Delahanty was not a stand out, or even a very good, player prior to 1892. It was reported that he came to the team “in the best shape of his life” that year. It must have been true, because the 24-year-old posted an OPS+ of 150 or above 10 of the next 11 seasons.
Immortalized By The Baseball Project:
Sometimes, hungover, he might lose a pop fly in the glare of the Washington sun.
And yes, he swung at bad pitches, and let the Irish in him sharpen up and boozy-bloat his tongue.
Nights on the road he led a bachelor’s life, with the bright short blaze of a shooting star.
But he soaked some homers-yeah, four in one game–when the ball was dead and the fences far.
WGOM Voter Comments:
“Delahanty is the first player on the ballot who played for franchise that is currently the Minnesota Twins. Not that we’re homers here”. – Scot
“He had four brothers, every single one of them playing in the majors, though only Jim was any good.” – Beau