1888 - 1903
Hall of Fame: 1945
One of the greatest players of the 1890s, Ed Delahanty never played on a first-place team. He led his league in slugging five times, RBI three times, homers twice, doubles five times, and steals once. He was an offensive superstar and once belted four home runs in a game, but his death stamped tragedy on his legacy. In July 1903, while with the Senators and batting .333, Big Ed (or Del, as he was more frequently known) came unglued. He was having marital and financial problems and decided to leave the team and visit his estranged wife. Boarding a train from Chicago to New York (through Detroit) on July 2, he visited the bar car and had a few too many drinks. When they reached Canadian territory, the conductor ordered the drunken ballplayer off the train. As the train sped away leaving him beside the tracks, Delahanty ran after it, tripped, and fell through the tracks into Niagara River. His disfigured body was found a week later downstream after having suffered the plunge of Niagara Falls.
Ed Delahanty's many successes on the diamond masked a troubled personal life marred by gambling and booze. His debts often mounted to the point that "Big Ed" would threaten suicide in the hopes that his teammates would bail him out; at times, even his mother followed him on road trips to make sure he wouldn't kill himself.
On the night of July 2, 1903, a drunken Delahanty finally found a chance to escape the Senators. George Davis had finally been allowed to join the Giants, and Delahanty -- hoping to be afforded the same opportunity -- boarded a train traveling from Detroit to New York.
Eight hours and five shots of whiskey after boarding the train, Delahanty was asked to leave. He had been a nuisance the entire journey, and when he attempted to drag a sleeping woman out of her berth by her ankles the train conductor had decided enough was enough.
So it came to pass that "Big Ed" Delahanty found himself standing on the Canadian side of the International Bridge with the bright lights of Buffalo ahead of him. "You're in Canada," he had been told by the conductor, "so don't make any trouble." "I don't care if I'm in Canada or dead," Delahanty replied. It was an eerily prescient response.
While conducting his rounds, Sam Kingston, the night watchman on the International Bridge, came across Delahanty leaning against one of the iron trusses. Kingston didn't recognize the slugger, even after shining his lantern in his face; when Delahanty became belligerent, the watchman lunged at the stranger in an effort to subdue him. Delahanty ran, and the next thing Kingston heard was a splash in the water some 20 feet below.
Several days Passed before the stranger on the bridge was identified as the great ballplayer Delahanty. Despite being able to hear Delahanty's cries for help, Kingston failed to report the incident until early the next morning. The ensuing investigation turned up few leads; the only evidence as to the man's identity was his hat, which he apparently had dropped on the bridge. Changes in Kingston's story only complicated matters.
The newspapers at first were more concerned with the whereabouts of George Davis, whom McGraw seemed to be hiding from American League officials. The Senators, who had passed over the International Bridge less than an hour after their teammate's fall, had become accustomed to Delahanty's frequent absences. Even Delahanty's wife, Norine, was not terribly worried when he failed to meet her at the train station.
When the story of Delahanty's vanishing first broke, it was assumed that he had jumped to the New York club or was simply laid up somewhere on a long bender. But as the days passed and repeated inquiries turned up nothing, the story assumed a more serious tone.
The connection between Delahanty and the stranger on the bridge was finally made by John K. Bennett, manager for the Pullman Car Company, when he investigated the contents of a dress suitcase and black leather bag sitting unclaimed in his Buffalo office. He found a pair of high-top baseball shoes and a Washington Senators pass book.
On Thursday, July 9, a man's body was found floating in the swirling waters at the base of Niagara Falls by William LeBlond, operator of the popular Maid of the Mist tour boat. The probable connection between Delahanty and the International Bridge incident was now well known, and M.A. Green, a stockholder in the Senators, came from Buffalo to inspect the body. The corpse was terribly disfigured and most of the clothing had apparently been torn off by the fierce waters, but enough characteristics remained for Green to determine that this was indeed his friend Delahanty.
Frank Delahanty, Ed's younger brother and an outfielder for Syracuse in the International League, arrived to observe the body. He questioned how Ed's tie could be in place, yet his diamond tie pin and rings had disappeared. Conducting further investigations of his own, he never could accept Kingston's story.
Frank refused to see how the septuagenarian Kingston had come out on top in a scuffle with the "King of Swat," and even though Kingston asserted that the stranger had wielded a lump of coal as a weapon, there was no coal in the vicinity of the bridge. To add to the intrigue, LeBlond found the body of a local farmer under the same waterfall shortly afterwards, minus 1,500 dollars he had been carrying when he left home.
The mystery of what happened to Ed Delahanty on his never-completed trip from Detroit to New York was never solved. As an angry Frank Delahanty told reporters, "I have some suspicion about how Ed went off that bridge. The poor fellow is dead now, and he can never tell his side of the story, but the others can tell just what they please."
Blame was placed alternately on the railroad company, Ban Johnson, John McGraw and Giants owner John Brush, and on Delahanty's own drinking, gambling and suicidal tendencies. A lawsuit by a destitute Norine Delahanty after the season provided her and her daughter with a mere $5,000 from the railroad company.
The "King of Batters" was laid to rest in his hometown of Cleveland. His entire family -- including his four ballplaying brothers -- attended, and numerous friends from around the leagues came to pay their respects. John McGraw served as a pallbearer. In 1945, the Veteran's Committee voted Delahanty into the Hall of Fame; a career .346 hitter, he is the only player ever to win both an AL and NL batting title.