The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #5. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff.
From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the players listed thus far, please click here. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.
Please check back tomorrow morning for #4.
#5 – Ed Delahanty
Years: 1888-1889, 1891-1901
.348/.414/.508, 87 HR, 411 SB in 7141 PA
Previous Rank: 4 (-1)
fWAR Phillies Rank: 2nd among position players, 3rd among Phillies
Signature Achievments: Has highest single-season batting average in team history (.410 in 1899), hit over .400 three times, last Phillie to have OBP of .500 or greater (.500, 1895)
Signature Game: Hit four HR in a losing effort on July 13, 1896
Second Phillie ever inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945 via Old Timers’ Committee
Is also known for: Mysterious death involving Niagara Falls
“Big Ed” was one of Major League Baseball’s earliest and most well-known sluggers. At age 20, the future right-handed slugging outfielder Delahanty joined the then-Quakers in 1888 when the team purchased his contract from Wheeling of the Tri-State league. Delahanty jumped to the Cleveland Infants of the Players’ League prior to the start of the 1890 season. Following the 1890 season, the Players’ League’s only season, Delahanty jumped back to the Quakers. By 1892, Delahanty would begin to show flashes of what made him a top power-hitter in baseball, leading the NL in triples and slugging percentage. By 1893, Delahanty had arrived: from 1893 through 1899, Delahanty put together a seven-year stretch matched by very few in baseball history: .384/.457/.568 with 65 HR and 255 SB.
During his time second run with the Phillies, Delahanty was among the leaders in all major offensive categories in baseball. Delahanty ranked third in games played, PA, and runs, first in HR and RBI, 16th in steals, fourth in BA, seventh in OBP, and second in hits, SLG and OPS. As a Phillie, Delahanty led the NL in BA in 1899 with a .410 average, the last time any Phillie hit above .400, in OBP with a .500 mark in 1895, the last time any Phillie got on base at a .500 clip, and led the NL in SLG and OPS four times. Delahanty has the fifth-best batting average in Major League history and ranks 31st in OBP, 88th in SLG, and 51st in OPS.
Delahanty’s numbers hold up well with others in Phillies’ history, even over 100 years later. Delahanty ranks fifth in PA, second in runs and RBI, third in steals, third in BA, sixth in OBP, eleventh in slugging, sixth in OPS, ahead of, among others, Mike Schmidt, and first in triples. Delahanty retired as the club leader in hits, a mark that stood until Richie Ashburn broke it in 1959, doubles, a mark that stood until Jimmy Rollins broke it in 2013, runs, a mark that stood until Schmidt broke it, and RBI, a mark also broken by Schmidt. Delahanty was arguably the greatest player in Phillies history until the Whiz Kids came around, having both the standout seasons and cumulative numbers to prove it.
Delahanty may be ranked even higher on the Top 100 had his teams had any success during his playing days in Philly. The highest any of his teams ever finished was second during his final season with the Phils in 1901, finishing 7.5 games behind the pennant-winning Pirates.
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.
Delahanty’s teams played exactly .500 baseball (955-955) during his tenure in Philadelphia, meaning one of the league’s most mediocre teams during the two stretches Delahanty was in Philly had one of the game’s best players. Delahanty was an Old Timers’ Committee selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945 and was inducted to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1985. Despite being one of the best players in Phillies’ history, and having a top-five all-time batting average, Delahanty is not among the ranks of those who have had their jersey, or in the case of more-appropriate-for-comparison Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Klein, their scripted P, retired.