An Odd Baseball Death

Farbeit for me to question the death of another human being, but I was thinking about a few odd baseball deaths. Some you may have heard, like Cory Lidle and Thurman Munson. A few of you may even know Ray Chapman. Well two that caught my eye the past few days were Ed Delahanty and Jim Creighton.

First, Ed Delahanty. Delahanty was a remarkable hitter in his time and has one of the 19 seasons played in baseball history where he had an on-base-percentage greater than .499:

On July 2, 1903, Delahanty boarded a train bound for New York to go play for the Giants. Ed got hammered on the train, whipped out a blade and started threatening other passengers. The conductor kicked him off the train at Niagara Falls. A drunken Delahanty attempted to cross the International Bridge over the Niagara River and is believed to have fallen off the bridge into the falls. Any player’s death in which the deceased is found at the bottom of Niagara Falls qualifies as a mighty strange baseball death.

Hmm. OK. The dude fell over the Niagara Falls after getting off a train.

And now Jim Creighton. Creighton was one of the sport’s first superstars. In 1861, at age 21, he was a phenom at pitching and hitting and 1862 was supposedly one of the greatest seasons ever played to that point. This is where our story starts:

However, in October 1862, in the midst of his greatest season, Creighton died suddenly. Such was his fame at the time of his death, and such was the grief of the baseball community, that a 12-foot marble obelisk, topped with a large baseball, was erected at his gravesite. For the next several years, the Excelsiors’ programs had a portrait of their fallen star, shrouded in black, featured prominently in the center.

There are several explanations for his death. The generally accepted explanation, which has existed from the time of his death, is that he fatally injured himself while playing baseball. At the time, players swung massive bats almost entirely with their upper body; it is said that a particularly hard swing from Creighton – some versions of the story have it as a home run swing – caused an internal injury. Remarking to teammate George Flanley that he had perhaps snapped a belt, he continued playing but was in extreme pain hours later. A few days later, he died at his parents’ house.

In an 1887 issue of early sports newspaper The Sporting Life, a letter-writer, who signed only as “Old Timer”, sent in his account of the event. Robert Smith (Baseball in America, Holt Rinehart Winston, 1961, p. 10,13) as well as the Findagrave website [1] reported it is a ruptured bladder. SABR researcher John Thorn concluded ruptured inguinal hernia. [2] Others speculate that it was some already-present injury or disease, or that his appendix or spleen had burst after the game. Contemporary writers were vague, only stating that he had suffered a “strain”.

Huh. Which one do you think is weirder?


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Filed under MLB, MLB history

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