Edward James Delahanty
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 170 lb.
- Debut May 22, 1888
- Final Game June 25, 1903
- Born October 30, 1867 in Cleveland, OH USA
- Died July 2, 1903 in Niagara Falls, ON CAN
"He was everybody's hero. It got so that's all Dad could talk about - Ed Delahanty, Ed Delahanty, Ed Delahanty. That's all we heard." - Tommy Leach
Edward James "Ed" Delahanty (October 30, 1867 - July 2, 1903) was a Hall of Fame player from 1888 to 1903. His career, which puts him near to the top of the Hall of Fame, has been overshadowed by the circumstances of his untimely death.
A Cleveland, OH native nicknamed "Big Ed", Delahanty was a left fielder and powerful righthanded batter in the 1890s. He was also the most prominent member of the largest group of siblings ever to play in the major leagues. His brothers Frank, Jim, Joe and Tom all spent at least 3 seasons in the majors, with Jim having a 13-year career.
Big Ed began his career on May 22, 1888, with the Philadelphia Quakers (the ancestors of the Philadelphia Phillies) in the National League, playing 74 games that season with an uncharacteristically low .228 average, 1 HR, and 31 RBI. The next year, in 56 games, he raised his average to .293. In 1890 he jumped to the Players League, but returned to the Phillies the next year when that league folded. After a healthy .306, 6 HR, 91 RBI season in 1892, Delahanty blossomed in 1893, narrowly missing the Triple Crown. His 19 home runs and 146 RBI led the league, but his .368 batting average trailed his teammates Billy Hamilton (.380) and Sam Thompson (.370).
The mid-1890s were a big hitting era, but even by the standards of the era Delahanty's numbers were superb. Between 1894 and 1896, he continued terrorizing the league, with astonishing batting marks: .407, 4 HR, 131 RBI; .404, 11 HR, 106 RBI; .397, 13 HR, 126 RBI. Despite his high .407 in 1894, he wasn't even close to leading the league; the champion bat belonged to Hugh Duffy with an all-time record .440. The 1894 Phillies outfield featuring Delahanty achieved the remarkable feat of having four batters hit .400 or higher; in addition to Delahanty, Thompson, and Hamilton, reserve outfielder Tuck Turner also managed to clear the .400 line. Delahanty won his first batting title in 1899 with a .410 batting average, adding nine homers and 137 RBI. His batting average that year made him the first batter in major league history to clear the .400 line three times; he was later joined in that exclusive club by fellow Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby.
On July 13, 1896, Delahanty batted four home runs in a game, being only the second player to do so (Bobby Lowe was the first, in 1894) and the only player ever to do so with four inside-the-park homers. Later, in 1899, he batted four doubles in the same game. He remains the only man with a four-homer game to his credit to also have a game in which he hit four doubles. The same year, Delahanty collected hits in 10 consecutive at bats, and in the 1890 and 1894 seasons, he tallied six-hit games. After switching to the new American League in 1902, playing for the Washington Senators, Delahanty finished second behind Napoleon Lajoie with a .376 mark; some consider that Lajoie's numbers are tainted and that he should be credited as the batting champ, which would make him the only player to have won a batting title in both the American and National leagues.
In his 16 seasons with Philadelphia, Cleveland and Washington, Delahanty batted .346, with 101 HRs and 1464 RBI, 522 doubles, 185 triples and 455 stolen bases. He also led the league in slugging average and runs batted in three times each, and batted over .400 three times. In the years since, Rogers Hornsby has been the only three-time .400-hitter in the National League (1922, 1924 & 1925).
The greatest natural hitter of his time, Ed Delahanty died tragically when he was swept over Niagara Falls at the age of 35. Apparently, he was 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 in what is now Fort Erie, ON, Delahanty started his way across the International Bridge (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. The San Francisco Call newspaper dated August 11, 1907 reports of his demise as follows: "'Ed' Delahanty, whose name was as familiar as that of baseball, an outfielder who had knocked the ball over more fences than almost any player who ever lived and whose reputation for making long distance hits was marvelous, either was pushed off or walked off a train crossing from the United States to Canada and his body was swept over Niagara Falls." See this link for details.
Based on similarity scores, the most similar player is his contemporary Dan Brouthers. Each of the Bill James Hall of Fame tests (the Black Ink test, the Gray Ink test, the Hall of Fame Standards test, and the Hall of Fame Monitor test) shows Delahanty in the top 30 players of all time.
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- NL Batting Average Leader (1899)
- 2-time League On-Base Percentage Leader (1895/NL & 1902/AL)
- 5-time League Slugging Percentage Leader (1892/NL, 1893/NL, 1896/NL, 1899/NL & 1902/AL)
- 5-time League OPS Leader (1895/NL, 1896/NL, 1899/NL, 1901/NL & 1902/AL)
- NL Hits Leader (1899)
- 2-time NL Total Bases Leader (1893 & 1899)
- 5-time League Doubles Leader (1895/NL, 1896/NL, 189/NL, 1901/NL & 1902/AL)
- NL Triples Leader (1892)
- 2-time NL Home Runs Leader (1893 & 1896)
- 3-time NL RBI Leader (1893, 1896 & 1899)
- NL Stolen Bases Leader (1898)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 7 (1893-1896 & 1899-1901)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 10 (1890, 1893-1899, 1901 & 1902)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 3 (1893, 1897 & 1899)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1898)
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1945
- Most games with six hits in six at bats, career, 2 (tied)
- Hitting streak to end career, 16 consecutive games [previous record was 15 games by Alex McKinnon of Pittsburgh in 1887]
- Jerrold Casway: Ed Delahanty in the Emerald Age of Baseball, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN, 2004.