May 29, 2012, 3:30 PM EDT
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 …
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.
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