The death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart — and his friends Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson (this is a must-read if you haven’t seen it) — was both a tragedy and a senseless crime. It was also another reminder of our own mortality — that even professional athletes aren’t immune from death.
USA Today ran a feature yesterday on five other notable baseball players who died while still active. The list includes former Yankee Thurman Munson, who died in a plane crash, and All-Star pitcher Daryl Kile, who died in his sleep at 33 a few years ago. The feature ignores some obvious examples — like Yankee pitcher Corey Lidle, who piloted a small plane into a building in New York City in 2006. It also ignores Ray Chapman, still the only major league player to die after being hit by a pitch.
But for all its flaws, the USA Today feature succeeds in introducing us to what must be the single greatest epitaph an old-timey ballplayer could ever have asked for. Prepare to be dazzled by the demise of Ed Delahanty:
Ed Delahanty: A 1903 New York Times obituary on baseball-almanac.com stated that the unruly Hall of Fame outfielder had been put off a train in Canada after threatening passengers with “an open razor” and died when he fell into the water trying to cross a draw bridge near Niagara Falls. The accident happened as the Washington Senators were returning home from Detroit. Delahanty, who was 35, had a .346 lifetime batting average in 16 seasons, mostly for the Philadelphia Phillies.
That wasn’t the only time Delahanty found himself at the center of some Keystone Cops-style shenanigans. According to Wikipedia, Delahanty was also at the center of a bizarre play in 1892 after Hall of Famer Cap Anson hit a ball that landed in a small enclosure used to store scoreboard numbers. The result was anointed one of the “most shameful home runs of all time” by people who never saw my two-bouncer into the parking lot at Timberlane Regional Middle School in 1990:
Delahanty tried to get the ball (it was still in play) by first reaching over the doghouse, then crawling down into it, but on the latter attempt, he got stuck, and by the time teammate Sam Thompson had freed Delahanty from the area, Anson crossed home plate on what the “Baseball Hall of Shame” book calls an “inside-the-doghouse home run.”
I had never heard of El Delahanty before today, but I like to think he looks down upon all of us every time we get stuck in a doghouse or accidentally go over Niagara Falls. It gives me a real sense of peace knowing he’s up there, smiling down on us. Because he’s drunk.
Munson among those who died young while still active [USA Today]
Ed Delahanty [Wikipedia]