Career w/Phillies: .348 AVG / 87 HR / 1286 RBI / 411 SB
Hits: Third all time.
Batting average, runs scored, Runs batted in, total bases, stolen bases: Second all time.
Doubles, triples: First all time.
These are the statistics that define the Phillies career of Ed Delahanty, the imposing outfielder who was likely the greatest hitter in baseball history until Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth came along.
Delahanty was signed by the Phils after the team lost second baseman Charlie Ferguson, who died from typhoid fever in 1888. It took Delahanty a few years to get his offense going, and though he moved to the Player’s League in 1890, he returned to the Phils for the 1891 season when the Player’s folded. Very soon his career really took off.
In 1892 Delahanty hit .306. In 1892 the average lifted to .368, setting off a decade of dominance in the National League. He hit over .400 three times, including a league-leading .410 in 1899. That season may be his finest – he recorded a league-high 238 hits, accumulating 338 total bases. He also attained an unthinkable .500 on-base percentage in 1895.
Delahanty was also a revered power hitter, slamming 19 in 1893 and 13 in 1896, both league-best totals. He regularly drove in more than 100 runs per season, regularly scored more than 100 runs per season and had 10-consecutive 20-steal seasons. He even stole 58 bases in 1898. He could do it all.
After hitting .354 in 1901, Delahanty moved to the Washington Senators, but his career and life were cut tragically short. On July 3, 1903, Delahanty was traveling to New York from Detroit (supposedly deciding to jump from the Senators to the Giants), and was acting belligerently before being kicked off the train. He reportedly was crossing the International Bridge in Buffalo when he jumped over and into the water below, dying of drowning.
But reports conflict, and the mystery remains whether Delahanty jumped over, or was pushed, or was accosted – maybe by a robber. It’s a sad mark on what was an unbelievable baseball career.
Comment: “Big Ed” is one of the greats. Yes, now we’re in bona-fide epic territory here. Delahanty had a decade of pure superb play as a Phillie. His numbers are a big bloated for their time, but he remains one of – if not the best player of his era.