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  • Ed Delahanty | Fatal Alcohol-Related Drowning

    Ed Delahanty-Ed Delahanty | Fatal Alcohol-Related Drowning

    Ed Delahanty was, in his own day, a notorious major league baseball slugger. A two-time champion hitter. A home run king. A deserving MLB Hall of Famer.

    But for all his success playing for several big-league teams, the ballplayer faced severe personal challenges and ultimately lost his life in the midst of a mental health crisis while heavily intoxicated with alcohol.

    The Death Of Big Ed Delahanty

    In June of 1903, Delahanty was reportedly struggling with injuries, weight gain, and heavy drinking, missing games as a result. He brandished a knife at his teammates after speaking of killing himself and took out an accident policy (life insurance) payable to his young daughter.

    On a separate train from his team headed to Detroit, Delahanty downed five whiskies and became violent, causing him to be removed from the train.

    Suddenly stranded in Ontario, Canada, Delahanty began walking across the International Bridge to cross the Niagara River from Fort Erie on the Canadian side and reach Buffalo. 

    A watchman, Sam Kingston, questioned him and Delahanty mistakenly plunged off the side of the bridge into the river below.

    Only weeks later, after what remained of Delahanty’s body was recovered below Niagara Falls, was his fate understood. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery.

    About Ed Delahanty

    Edward “Big Ed” James Delahanty was born on October 30, 1867, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He was the oldest of a set of siblings that would make history as the largest to play in the major leagues, with Ed and five of his younger brothers all going pro.

    After finishing high school and attending college at St. Joseph’s, Delahanty joined the semi-pro Cleveland Shamrocks before signing on to play professional baseball in the Ohio State League and in West Virginia in 1887.

    Philadelphia Phillies

    In 1888, Delahanty was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League. His rookie year average was .228, increasing to .293 in his second year.

    He played for the Athletics in the Players’ League in 1890 but returned to the Phillies as a left fielder after the league collapsed. Unfortunately, bad luck and excessive alcohol consumption kneecapped his early performance.

    By 1893, however, Delahanty hit his stride with a .368 average, 19 home runs, and 146 RBI, narrowly missing the Triple Crown. And between 1894 and 1896, Delahanty’s batting was superb: .407, 4 HR, 131 RBI; .404, 11 HR, 106 RBI; .397, 13 HR, 126 RBI.

    Only Hugh Duffy’s record-setting .440 denied Delahanty a batting title, though he did earn one in 1899 with a batting average of .410, nine homers, and 137 RBI, becoming the first player in major league history to surpass .400 three times.

    In 1899, Delahanty also became the only major league player to tally a four-homer game and a four-double game.

    Washington Senators

    In 1902 Delahanty switched to the American League and played for the Washington Senators, hitting .376 with 43 doubles and walking 62 times.

    However, during this time there were substantiated rumors that he had accumulated gambling debt, was drinking heavily, and struggled with his wife being seriously ill.

    He attempted to break his contract to play for the New York Giants shortly thereafter but ended up again playing for the Senators in 1903, hitting .33 with one home run and 21 RBI in 42 games.


    Delahanty is remembered as a remarkable baseball player. After all, he led his league with 19 homers in 1893 and 1896, was a five-team leader for slugging, five-time leader in OPS, a three-time leader in RBI, and had first-in-league OBP of .500 in 1895 (.411 career OBP).

    As an outfielder and first baseman, he played not only for the Philadelphia Quakers/Phillies from 1888-89 and 1891-1901, but also for the Cleveland Infants of the Players League in 1890, and the Washington Senators from 1902-1903. And he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.

    But despite all of this, his achievements are almost entirely overshadowed by the circumstances of his death, which are among the most infamous in all of baseball history and detailed in Frank Russo’s 2014 book: The Cooperstown Chronicles: Baseball’s Colorful Characters, Unusual Lives, and Strange Demises.

    Recovery Is Possible

    Alcohol and drug abuse are urgent problems today, as they were more than a century ago. But, in contrast with Ed Delahanty, Americans now have access to robust, personalized, and evidence-based addiction treatment and mental health services.

    To learn how we can make addiction recovery possible for individuals and families, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
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