Saturday, July 02, 2005


July 2nd, 1903

Ed Delahanty Dies

Known as "Big Ed" Delahanty (he stood 6'1, 170) he was one of a legion of Delahanty brothers to play Major League Baseball around the turn of the century and probably the best. However, it is the circumstances surrounding his death, a black comedy so absurd it is practically upstate New York Fargo that most intrigue me. Delahanty was on a train of the Michigan Central Railroad when he was kicked off, possibly for causing a disruption with his drunkenness. Delahanty had been tossed off--some stories imply rather literally--the train at Bridgeberg, so named because it was the town next to the train bridge crossing the Niagara River. Evidently annoyed at having been booted off his train, Delahanty began to attempt to cross the bridge on foot, chasing down his train. He was shouted back by the bridge's night watchman but ignored him, a particularly bad decision as the bridge was a drawbridge and had been opened once the train passed to allow a boat to go through.

The actual facts of the story get a little hazy at this point, so we'll skip ahead to the New York Times of July 9th, which although misspelling Big Ed's name ("Delehanty") provides the facts as known. Delahanty's body was recovered at the dock of the Maid of the Mist (yes, it really has been around that long) in predictably poor shape for having been drunkenly dragged down a river and over Niagara Falls. The Times reported the "body was mangled...presumably by the propeller of the Maid of the Mist." Despite this, the body was still identified by his family and claimed for burial.

So there you have it. A star baseball player--“Big Ed” is in the Hall of Fame--gets himself sufficiently drunk as to be thrown off the train he's on, and in a drunken stupor attempts to chase the train across a bridge, only to find it is a drawbridge that has been opened and drops into the Niagara River, which proceed to carry him down and over Niagara Falls. A week later his body is recovered, missing a leg, after having been mangled by a Niagara Falls sightseeing boat. If I were Joel and Ethan Coen, I'd be all over this one; it practically writes itself.

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