Ed Delahanty was the most 19th Century baseball player ever

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Magglio Ordonez’s retirement inspired Trent McCotter of SABR to note that Ordonez ended his career with an 18-game hitting streak. That’s the longest streak at the end of a career ever, eclipsing the previous record holder, Ed Delahanty, who ended his career with a 16-game streak.

This in turn led to some Twitter talk about the great Ed Delahanty, who is probably one of the more overlooked Hall of Famers ever.

Delahanty was a slugger among sluggers in the late 19th century. He led the league with 19 homers in 1893, which was a pretty significant total for the day. He did so again in 1896. Five times he led the NL in slugging. He thrice led the NL in RBI, with 146, 126 and 137. And he was not a one-dimensional hitter. He got on base at an amazing clip, leading the league with a ridiculous .500 OBP in 1895, and finishing his career with a .411 OBP.  He led the NL in OPS five times.

But the reason why his being overlooked is damn nigh criminal is not because of his baseball prowess — he was inducted to the Hall, after all — but because the way he broke into the major leagues and the way he died is unknown by so many. There are books with long colorful descriptions of Delahanty’s life and hard times, but in the interest of saving time and hassle, I quote Wikipedia:

Delahanty also played minor league ball in Wheeling, West Virginia before the Phillies obtained him as a replacement for Charlie Ferguson. Ferguson had died early in 1888 from typhoid fever, and Ed was originally brought in to fill in for him at second base …

and:

Delahanty died when he was swept over Niagara Falls in 1903. He was apparently kicked off a train by the train’s conductor for being drunk and disorderly. The conductor said Delahanty was brandishing a straight razor and threatening passengers. After being kicked off the train, Delahanty started his way across the International Bridge connecting Buffalo, NY with Fort Erie (near Niagara Falls) and fell or jumped off the bridge (some accounts say Ed was yelling about death that night). Whether “Big Ed” died from his plunge over the Falls, or drowned on the way to the Falls is uncertain.

If you got your job because of a typhoid fever death and had your career end because of a booze-fueled plunge over Niagara Falls, you have to be the most 19th Century baseball player of all time. At the very least it’s between him and Old Hoss Radboun.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.