Note: The #12 and #13 spot will be used to represent 2 tremendous seasons from the 1890′s: Ed Delahanty in 1895 and Billy Hamilton in 1894. I didn’t want to go prior to 1900 (due to the differences in the game), but these both changed my mind.
Stats and Ranks
Note: MLB and Phillies all-time Ranks are for players from 1890 on
Some Interesting Stats and Facts (all MLB all-time ranks are from 1890-2009)
- One of only 10 players in MLB history to have a .500 OBP for an entire season
- One of only 5 players in MLB history with a .400 BA and .500 OBP
- One of only 4 players in MLB history with a .400 BA, .500 OBP and .600 SLG
- 6th most single-season runs in Phillies history… in a 116-game season. On pace to score 208 runs in a 162 game season.
- One of 2 Phillies players with 140+ runs and 45+ SB in a season (Billy Hamilton)
- 2nd highest single-season OBP in Phillies history, 5th highest BA, 12th highest SLG%, 3rd highest OPS
- One of only 5 seasons in MLB history with a .400 BA, 100+ RBI and 45 SB
- Died falling down Niagara Falls (full story below)
Why He’s Here
This season would most definitely be in the top-5 if not for how differently the game was played prior to 1900. However, regardless of how is was played, there is little denying the fact that Ed Delahanty was the best offensive talent in all of baseball from 1890-1899. The hardest part about this post was picking which season I should use for Delahanty. All the previous seasons on this list had one standout, but as we move forward there will be several players with several to choose from. For Delahanty, he was undeniably the best player in baseball in 1893, 1895, 1896, 1898 and 1899. I settled on 1895 because of the uniqueness of his .500 OBP that season, but I could have easily picked ’93 or ’96 (when he led the majors in HR and RBI as well) or ’99 (when he had 55 doubles to go along with a league leading 137 RBI and .410 BA). You could make an argument for any of these seasons, but for me, the single most impressive number occurred in 1895, so I went with that.
It’s not strange to me that Delahanty doesn’t get more recognition in Philly (like a retired jersey, for instance) because of how long ago he played, but I feel like he should get more than he does. Consider this list of the best offensive players of each decade (up for debate of course, particularly the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s):
2000′s: Albert Pujols
1990′s: Barry Bonds
1980′s: Mike Schmidt
1970′s: Willie Stargell
1960′s: Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays
1950′s: Stan Musial
1940′s: Ted Williams
1930′s: Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig
1920′s: Babe Ruth
1910′s: Ty Cobb
1900′s: Honus Wagner
1890′s: Ed Delahanty
Every single one of those players is an iconic figure in their franchises history except Delahanty, who you will rarely hear mentioned. Here are Delahanty’s ranks among all players from 1890-1899:
Hits – 1st
Doubles – 1st (by 102)
SLG % – 1st
OPS – 1st
OPS+ – 1st
Extra-Base Hits – 1st (by 104)
Total Bases – 1st (by 184)
Triples – 2nd
Home Runs – 2nd
RBI – 2nd
Runs – 3rd
BA – 4th
Stolen Bases – 13th
OBP – 9th
One reason he might not have the long-term recognition is Philadelphia is that he was kind of a drunk and a gambler (though you’d think that might have endeared him to Philadelphia, but that’s another matter) who met one of the strangest demises in baseball history. Here are the facts as I can gather them (or as much as you can call something a “fact” when it happened 107 years ago and you are researching it on the internet).
In 1903, Delahanty was 35 and playing for Senators. He didn’t want to play baseball anymore (due to personal problems, including gambling debts so large he often threatened to kill himself). He hopped on a train from Detroit to New York, drank too much, and was kicked off somewhere in Canada after he tried to pull a sleeping woman out of her bed by the ankles. A watchmen found him wandering around a bridge near Niagara Falls awhile attempting to subdue him, the impaired Delahanty fell into the river. Guess where that river led? 7 days later, they found his body at the bottom of the Falls.
But we aren’t done yet, folks!
Ed’s brother, upon identifying the body, wondered how Ed’s tie and some of his clothes could remain unharmed, but his diamond tie clip and rings were missing. To add to the mystery, a local farmer washed ashore on the river near that same bridge, missing $1,500 he had been carrying. Did the watchmen take advantage of the drunk Delahanty, taking his valuables and dumping him in the river? They didn’t exactly have CSI back then to figure this stuff out, so while that was always the brother’s claim, nothing came of it.
So there you have it. Ed Delahanty: The greatest hitters of the 1890′s, and the 13th greatest individual season in Phillies history, met his demise by plummeting down Niagara Falls.
Previous Top-20 Seasons
14. Curt Schilling, 1997
15. Lefty O’Doul, 1929
16. Brad Lidge, 2008
17. Chris Short, 1964
18. John Denny, 1983
19. Tug McGraw, 1980
20. Greg Luzinski, 1977
21. Gavvy Cravath, 1913
22. Lenny Dykstra, 1993
Five pitchers that just missed (and criteria for rankings)