Ed Delahanty, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, would probably be considered one of the first, if not the first, major star to put on a Phillies uniform.
‘Big Ed’, as he was nicknamed, was born on October 30, 1867, in Cleveland, Ohio, the oldest of seven brothers, five of whom, including himself, would eventually play professional baseball. He would go to high school at Central High School, in Cleveland, Ohio, and then go on to college and graduate from St. Joseph’s, before he started playing professional baseball with Mansfield in the Ohio State League. He would then play ball in Wheeling, West Virginia, before having his contract bought early in 1888 by the Philadelphia Phillies as the replacement for the recently deceased Charlie Ferguson. Delahanty would make his major league debut on May 22, 1888 at the young age of 20. Appearing in 74 games, mostly at second base, he would hit a low, for his eventual 16-year career, .228 (66 for 290), with a slugging percentage of .293 and an on-base percentage of only .261, as he would hit just 12 2Bs, 2 3Bs and 1 HRs and steal only 38 bases, as he scored just 40 runs while he knocked in 31.
In his second season as a Phil, his batting average would rise to .293 (72 for 246), as he would play in only 56 games. His slugging percentage would also rise to .370, while his on-base percentage would increase to .333, as he would also hit 13 2Bs and 3 3Bs, while stealing 14 bases. ‘Big Ed’ would also score 37 runs while knocking in 27. In his third season as a major league ballplayer, he would be among the players who would jump from either the National League or the American Association to join the short-lived Players’ League, which was formed in revolt against the reserve clause. Playing for his home town Cleveland Infants of the upstart league, ‘Big Ed’ would start to show his prowess, as he would play in 113 games, batting .296 (153 for 517), with a slugging percentage of .414 and an on-base percentage of .337. He would hit 26 2Bs, 13 3Bs and 3 HRs, while stealing 25 bases, and would score 107 runs while knocking in 64. After the PL’s collapse, he would rejoin the Phillies for the 1891 season. In 128 games, his batting average would dip to .243 (132 for 543), as did his slugging percentage (.339) and his on-base percentage (.296). His power numbers would also drop, as he would only hit 19 2Bs, 9 3Bs and 5 HRs, while he would steal 25 bases, score 92 runs and knock in 86.
The 1892 season would see Delahanty start to become a hitting threat, as he would end the season with his first .300+ batting average as he would hit .306 (146 for 477) in 123 games, with a slugging percentage of .495, leading the league in that category, and an on-base percentage of .360, as he would hit 30 2Bs, 21 3Bs (league leader) and 6 HRs, with 29 stolen bases, while scoring 79 runs as he knocked in 91. In 1893, his batting average would rise to .368 (219 for 595) in 132 games, while his slugging percentage would increase to .583, once again the league leader, and his on-base percentage would rise to .423, as he would hit 35 2Bs, 18 3Bs and 19 HRs (league leader), with 37 steals, as he knocked in 146 runs (league leader) while scoring 145. The following season, his batting average would rise to .400 for the first time in his career as a member of the .400+ Phillies outfield of Billy Hamilton (.404), Sam Thompson (.407) (both hall of famers) and Tuck Turner (.416), as he would hit .407 (199 for 489) in 114 games, ending up in fourth place behind league leader Hugh Duffy (.440, the major league record), with a .585 slugging percentage and a .423 on-base percentage. That year, he would hit 39 2Bs, 18 3Bs and 4 HRs, and steal 21 bases, while also scoring 147 runs as he knocked in 131. In 1895, in 116 games, Delahanty’s batting average would drop a little to .404 (194 for 480), while both his slugging (.617) and on-base (.500, league leader) percentage would rise, as he would hit 49 2Bs (league leader), 10 3Bs and 11 HRs, while stealing 46 bases, as he scored 149 times, while knocking in 126.
In 1896, his ninth season as a major leaguer, and his eighth as a Phil, Delahanty would perform several feats. On July 13, 1896, he would go five for five in one game, four of which would be home runs, all of them inside-the-park, thus in one day becoming, so far, the only man to hit four inside-the-park home runs, the second man in major league history to hit four home runs in one day, after Bobby Lowe of the Boston Beaneaters did it on May 30, 1894, and the first player to do so in a losing cause, as the Phillies would lose to the Chicago Colts (now Cubs), 9-8. Overall, in 116 games, his batting average would be .397 (198 for 499), with a slugging percentage of .631 and an on-base percentage of. 472. He would hit 44 2Bs, 17 3Bs and 13 HRs, while stealing 37 bases, as he scored 131 runs while knocking in 126, leading the league in slugging, doubles, home runs and RBIs. In 1897, his ninth year in the National League, his average would drop down to .377 (200 for 530), as he would play in 129 games that season, having a slugging percentage of .538 and an on-base mark of .444, as he would hit 40 2Bs, 15 3Bs and 5 HRs, while also swipping 26 bases, as he crossed the plate 109 times while knocking in only 96 runs. The following season, 1898, in 144 games, ‘Big Ed”s batting average would fall to .334 (183 for 548), with similar drops in slugging (.454) and on-base percentage (.426). He would hit 38 2Bs, 9 3Bs and 4 HRs, while stealing 58 bases (league leader), as he scored 115 times while knocking in just 92 runs.
1899, his tenth season as a Phil, would be his best season as a major leaguer, as he would play in 146 games, winning his first batting title with a .410 average (238 for 581), with a .582 slugging mark and a .464 on-base percentage. Delahanty would hit 55 2Bs, 9 3Bs, and 9 HRs, as he scored 135 runs while knocking in 137. ‘Big Ed’ would lead the National League in slugging percentage, hits, doubles and RBIs, as well as total bases (338), while also being among the leaders in on-base percentage (2), runs scored (4), home runs (3), singles (165, 5). He would also that year hit safely in 31 straight games, while also hitting four doubles in one game, becoming the only man in major league history to hit both four home runs in one game and four doubles in another, as well as collecting 10 straight hits. After his career season, his numbers would dropped as a member of the turn of the century (1900) Phils. In 131 games, his batting average would drop to .323 (174 for 539), as would his slugging (.430) and on-base percentage (.378), as he would hit only 32 2Bs, 10 3Bs and 2 HRs, while stealing just 16 bases, as he would cross the plate just 82 times while knocking in 109. In 1901, in what would turn out to be his thirteenth and final season with the Phillies, Delahanty would play in 139 games, as his batting average rose to .354 (192 for 542), as would both his slugging (.528) and on-base (.427) percentage, as he would hit 38 2Bs (league leader), 16 3Bs and 8 HRs, crossing the plate 106 times while knocking in 108.
In 1902, he would jump to the American League, becoming a member of the Washington Senators, soon having his best season since his 1897 season, as he would win the AL batting title, the only man to so far do it in both major leagues in major league history as he would end a 123 games season with a .367 average (178 for 473), while slugging (.590) with an on-base percentage (.376), both being the league leader. ‘Big Ed’ would that season hit 43 2Bs (league leader), 14 3Bs and 10 HRs, while he would score 103 times while knocking in 93 RBIs, placing him among the league leaders in hits (4), triples, home runs, RBIs, runs scored (all 5) as well as total bases (279, 4). The following season, 1903, Delahanty would appear in only 42 games, going .333 (52 for 156), with a .436 slugging and a .388 on-base percentage, as he would hit 11 2Bs, 1 3Bs and 1 HRs, as he would cross the plate 22 times while knocking in 21.
Ed Delahanty, although a good ballplayer, would be plagued with a personal life marred by alcohol and gambling. His debts would get so big that at one point he would threathen to commit suicide so that his fellow teammates would have to bail him out. In fact, his mother would at one point travel with him to make sure that he wouldn’t kill himself. On the night of July 2, 1903, Delahanty would be taking the train from Detroit to New York so that he could once again jump leagues, this time to join the National League’s New York Giants of John J. McGraw. During the trip, as the train reached Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, he would get himself kicked off of train by the train’s conductor, after making himself a general nusiance by getting drunk. Delahanty, according to eyewitness accounts, then attempted to cross the International Bridge in the dark. He would then get into a confrontation with Sam Kingston, the bridge’s watchman, before running away. Kingston claimed that he then heard a splash. Delahanty would be missing for several days, before his nude, lifeless form would appear at the base of the falls on July 9, later identify by M.A. Green, a stockholder of the Senators.
‘Big Ed”s body would be sent home to Cleveland to be buried, with his entire family attending the funeral, along with several friends whom he had made while in the majors, with McGraw acting as one of his pallbearers.
In a 16-year career, ‘Big Ed’ still has the fifth highest batting average in baseball history (.346) (2596 (75th) for 7505). He is also 13th in triples (185), 32nd in on-base percentage (.411), 36th in doubles (522), 44th in runs scored (1599), 47th in stolen bases (455), 54th in RBIs (1464), 81st in singles (1788) 85th in slugging percentage (.505), and 97th in total bases (3791), while also playing in 1835 games, mostly as an outfielder, and hitting 101 HRs. In his career, he would win two batting titles, lead the league in slugging percentage and doubles five times, in on-base percentage, total bases and home runs twice, in hits, triples and stolen bases one time each, and in rbis four times. As a Phil, in 13 full seasons, he is still the team leader in 2Bs (442) and 3Bs (157), is 2nd in batting average (.348), total bases (3230), runs scored (1367) and RBIs (1286), 3rd in hits (2213), 4th in at-bats (6359), 6th in games (1555), 8th in slugging percentage (.510), and 28th in HRs (87).
In 1945, he would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee, to help clear up a log jam of players who mainly played in the 19th Century. Teammates Hamilton and Thompson would join him in the Hall in 1961 and 1974 respectively
Wikipedia Biography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Delahanty
National Baseball Hall of Fame Bio: http://baseballhall.org/hof/delahanty-ed
Hall of Fame Vote, 1945: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baseball_Hall_of_Fame_balloting,_1945
Baseball.com Biography: http://www.thebaseballpage.com/players/delahed01.php
Baseball-reference.com stats: http://www.baseball-reference.com/d/delahed01.shtml
Ed Delahanty’s Obits (NY Times): http://www.thedeadballera.com/Obits/Obits_D/Delahanty.Ed.Obit.html