In the nearly hundred and fifty years that organized professional baseball has been played in America, there have been many strange occurrences both on and off the diamond. At the turn of the last century, the game was more dangerous for fan and player alike. Brawls, stadium fires, gamblers, hustlers, scoundrels and grifters were all working the game. Death was not uncommon. Major League Baseball deaths always hold a morbid fascination for the sports fan and there are two mysterious Major League Baseball deaths that remain unsolved to this day--though not for lack of trying by many an armchair detective. Two great stars taken from the game too soon in very mysterious circumstances! It is doubtful that these mysteries will ever be solved, but not from lack of trying.
"Big Ed" Delahanty was born in 1867 in Cleveland, Ohio and would eventually become one of five Delahanty boys to suit up in the big leagues. Delahanty quickly distinguished himself as one of the finest hitters in the National League. He became only the second player to hit four home runs in a game and batted a whopping .400 on three occasions. In 1903 while on the way to Canada, Ed became unruly due to drinking and was kicked off the train by the conductor. Attempting to cross the International Bridge on foot, Ed fell, jumped or was pushed depending upon the stories told by several different "witnesses" at the scene. Delahanty's body was later recovered below the Falls. The true cause of his death has never been solved. With a .346 lifetime batting average, Ed Delahanty was enshrined in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown posthumously in 1945 and is still regarded as one of the best hitters in the history of the game.
A contemporary of Delahanty, Chick Stahl was a likeable member of the Boston Red Sox. He was quick with the bat, too, and was able to compile a lifetime batting average of over .300. It is not for the three triples he hit in the first World Series of 1903, however, that Chick is remembered. Oddly and unexpectedly, during spring training of 1907 Stahl (who only the year before had been appointed manager) ended his life by drinking carbolic acid. His cryptic suicide note left little clues at to the reason for ending it all: Boys, I couldn't help it, it drove me to it. No one has ever been able to explain what 'it' was and how it would lead Stahl to choose to end his life in such a painful way. He was only 34 at the time of his tragic end.
There have been other cases of murder, suicide and unusual activity in Major League Baseball throughout the decades, but these two have always been special. These gentlemen and their tragic endings will live on in baseball lore for as long as the game is played. The true nature of their deaths will probably never be understood given that baseball players' personal lives then were not given the same scrutiny as the fishbowl that passes for public sports life today.Major League Baseball deaths are just a part of the game and a part of life, but sometimes they are just more unusual. If you like baseball scandals, check out Baseball Babylon by Dan Gutman which covers murder and other mayhem from the world of baseball.
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