111 years ago today, baseball experienced one of its weirdest deaths

34 Comments

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 Falls—s — 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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

Rick Yeatts/Getty Images
41 Comments

In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.