Thursday, April 15, 2010
Book: July 2, 1903 by Mike Sowell
If you have ever found yourself twiddling your thumbs with nothing to do and you check out my other blog, you know that I am a huge fan of Niagara Falls. I used to visit the Falls a couple of times a year. It is beautiful, mysterious and strange.
If you know me, you might know that I have a fascination with strange events, dates, and other moments of weirdness.
I also have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the city of Cleveland (for starters, I love the Indians but hate the Browns- thats a topic for another day though).
If you mix all of those factors in with my love of baseball, you get the story of Ed Delahanty.
I must admit that I really didn't know much about this HOFer from Cleveland until his name kept popping up in other books I have read about true crime and strange events relating to Cleveland and Niagara Falls.
Ed was a great baseball player at the turn of the century. He played around Cleveland, then signed on with the Philadelphia National League team. Towards the end of the 1800s, the newly formed American League started trying to coax National League players to come to their league.
Mike Sowell gives a lot of background on the American League starting up and competing with the National League. A third league even gets going at one time, but doesn't last. Several players sign contracts with more than one team.
Players like Ed Delahanty and Nap Lajoie compete for large contracts. Ed makes it clear that he wants to go where he can get the most money.
Ed jumps from the Philadelphia team to play for Washington.
As the wars continue between teams competing for the best players, Ed finally signs with New York, who is offering him a chunk of money. Initially, Ed denies that he is leaving Washington, but he finally says he is leaving. Also, Delahanty is dealing with mounting gambling debt. A big pay check might be perfect for Delahanty and his gambling hobby.
Add to this the fact that Ed has a bad drinking problem.
I have discussed Ed's death while mentioning another book (see my review of Niagara Falls confidential). Ed is on a train near Niagara Falls, not traveling with his team. He does a lot of drinking, and starts harassing other passengers. He receives warnings from the train crew, but he continues. Finally, the crew forces him off the train.
Later that night, a security person sees a guy pretty much jump (there are different versions of the story of how the man jumped or went over, and the security person tells more than one version).
The baseball world is curious about the whereabouts of Ed Delahanty. The truth really isn't known until the unknown jumper's body is found. Ed's hat and his unclaimed luggage also work into identifying him.
Ed's family is reluctant to believe what is reported. His brother investigates the situation, asking the train crew about what went down.
Ed did seem to have some thoughts of death though. He had bought some 24 hour life insurance policies (oddly, none were active when he died). He did appear a bit self destructive at times.
Ed does have a funeral, and many in baseball show up. His brothers also have nice pro ball careers.
This book covers all of the major details in the death of Ed, but it also gives a great account of the majors right at the turn of the century, relating the two events appropriately.