Thursday, January 12, 2006

January 12th, 1903

Win Mercer Dies

Bit of a sad one today. Mercer's death was a suicide in a San Francisco hotel. Mercer had been the best pitcher on some fairly dire early versions of the Washington Senators which is where the nickname comes from; his given name was George. Prior to the 1903 season, Mercer had been part of a barnstorming tour of Major League players around California and had recently been announced as manager of the Tigers for the coming year.

All of this meant that, at least to his contemporaries, Mercer's suicide was a great shock. Two stories of the circumstances around Mercer's decision have emerged, both with enough evidence to support them. One version was that Mercer was suffering from medical ailments that refused to get better and sent the pitcher into depression. One obituary at the time reports Mercer left a note documenting that he owned no money. This is a crucial detail as the other story about Mercer's death--and one more commonly accepted--is that Mercer took his life because he had gambled away all the money made from the barnstorming tour. This version of the story claims Mercer left a note warning of the evils of women and gambling. The only substantial evidence to the contrary for this story is that Addie Joss reportedly received six hundred dollars for his efforts on the tour, raising the question of how the players were being paid if Mercer had truly gambled away all the money.

As I said, the exact circumstances that surrounded Mercer's choice will never truly be known. All that can be known really is that some series of events prompted Mercer, a twenty-eight year old Major League star with a seemingly bright future to check into a hotel and end his life.

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