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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: JULY 3, 1903

Problem With Alcohol Sent Delahanty Over Edge

July 03, 1999

It remains, 96 years later, arguably baseball's greatest tragedy.

In 1903, there was no bigger name in baseball than Ed Delahanty, a 35-year-old, 200-pound athlete who hit with power and average. In 1902, his $15,000 salary was baseball's highest.

He was also one of the game's heaviest drinkers, in an era when most were saloon regulars.

In 1903, he was furious that a trade that had sent him from Washington to New York had been voided. And he feuded constantly with Washington Manager Tom Loftus. His drinking grew in intensity. He threatened suicide. Worried team officials sent for his brother and mother.

He took out an insurance policy, naming his daughter the beneficiary.

Benched for a game at Detroit, Delahanty bolted the club and, without telling his brother or mother, caught a train for New York.

A conductor later said Delahanty downed five shots of whiskey upon boarding, and pulled a razor on another conductor. He grew incoherent. When he pulled the train's emergency cord, he was put off the train at Fort Erie, Ontario, on the Niagara River, about 15 miles upriver from Niagara Falls.

It was just after midnight, July 3, 1903.

At 1 a.m., he began walking across the Niagara River railroad drawbridge, where a watchman, Sam Kingston, warned him that the bridge was up. Delahanty knocked him out with one punch.

Kingston was the last man to see Ed Delahanty alive.

Six days later, below the falls, Delahanty's mangled body--missing its left leg--washed up at a tourist boat dock.

He'd batted .300 in 12 of his 16 big league seasons and might have been the first 20th century batter to reach 3,000 hits. He had 2,593 when he died.

Also on this date: In 1954, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, 40, already dying of cancer, won the women's U.S. Open at Peabody, Mass., by 13 strokes. Voted in a 1950 AP poll the half-century's greatest woman athlete, Zaharias died in 1956. . . . In 1993, at Montreal, Dodger Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale, 56, died of a heart attack. . . . In 1937, Grey Count won the inaugural feature race at Del Mar's grand opening. . . . In 1954, Fault Free upset heavy favorite Determine in the Westerner Handicap at Hollywood Park.

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