I’ve written about old Ed Delahanty before. The other time was when I named him “The Most 19th Century Player of All Time.” Part of the reason he won that title is because he starred in the 19th century, mostly, and because of the way he got his big league callup: he took the place of a Philadelphia Quakers second baseman who died of friggin’ typhoid fever. The only thing that would make that transaction more 19th century is if Delahanty himself was activated from the disabled list following a bout with dropsy.
But the other reason he was the most 19th century baseball player? The way he died. It happened 111 years ago today when, after he abandoned his Washington Senators teammates in Detroit as a result of a dispute in which he wanted to jump the team and go play for the Giants. Booking personal passage on a train to New York, Delahanty got drunk and was kicked off the train near Niagra Falls. He attempted to cross the International Railway bridge. Then, according to the wonderful SABR biography of the man, this happened:
In the darkness Big Ed walked out onto the 3,600 foot long bridge and was standing still at its edge, staring down into the water, when he was accosted by night watchman Sam Kingston, on the lookout for smugglers. A scuffle ensued, with Kingston dragging Delahanty back to the middle of the wide bridge, but Kingston then fell down and Delahanty got away. Moments later, according to Kingston — who claimed it was too dark to see what happened — Del either jumped or drunkenly stumbled off the edge of the bridge, falling 25 feet into the 40-foot-deep Niagara River.
His naked body (except for tie, shoes and socks) was found 20 miles downstream at the base of Horseshoe Falls — the Canadian portion of Niagara Fallss — even days later. Dead at the age of 35, he was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland.
A career which started with typhoid fever and ended in a drunken — or by then, probably dead — plunge over Niagara Falls. That’s some O.G. 19th century stuff, even if it happened in 1903. Also worth noting: Delhanty had a 16-game hitting streak in progress at the time of his death. So he literally hit the bottom while he was still on top in some ways.
Go read up on Big Ed here. You’ll be glad you did. You’ll be glad you live in the age of airline travel too.