100 Greatest Phillies: 4 – Ed Delahanty

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, March 23, 2009 05:34 PM | Comments: 12
100 Greatest Phillies, Posts

Ed Delahanty
1888-1889, 1891-1901

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.

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About Tim Malcolm

Tim Malcolm has written 1947 articles on Phillies Nation.

  • Posts: 0 the lopez!

    about time we get delahanty!!
    i remember watching him at sportsman park before color tv

  • Posts: 0 Greg V.

    Used to love grabbing a few dogs and some brews at the ballpark and watching Big Ed hit the long ball!

  • Posts: 0 hamels' left hand

    never knew the story of his untimely demise…what a way to go……

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    wow…those are Paul Bunyan numbers (folktale/legendary)

    right greg…in 1901. unless you can remember a past life…

  • Posts: 0 James Kay

    On July 13, 1896, Delahanty hit four home runs in a game, being only the second player to do so, and the only player ever to do so with four inside-the-park homers.

    In 1890, he played for a team called the Cleveland Infants. Go figure?

    His rarified numbers and place in early Phillies baseball history easily place him in the top 10. Legend is he was an incorrigible off the field rowdy and a wife beater. But he had the players’ respect. I placed him behind Sam thompson and Allen on my list mainly because of his lack of class. But # 4 is fine with me.

    To view his obituary from The New York Times (July 10, 1903) check out the following link:

    A great mini biography can be viewed at this link:

  • Posts: 0 the lopez!

    first it was delahanty, then it was mckinley. i tell you it was a rough year in 1901

  • Posts: 0 Tom G

    So, Bobby Molinaro is number 3, my top ten is still working for me

  • Posts: 0 Jim

    i am little upset that he isnt placed higher than robin roberts.

  • Posts: 0 t

    If you thought Pat Burrell got around, you wouldn’t believe the women Easy Ed pulled in.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck P

    Could have retired as one of the top 20 RBI men of all time… 5 more seasons of 60-75 RBI’s would have put him over 1,700 for his career. Top 5 for sure.

  • Posts: 0 Justin

    Appropriate placing of a real talented player in the early years of Phillies History. Could have placed higher had that incident never occurred. Also would a lot of people know who he was before J-Roll had his hit streak a few years back? Good question and the answer? maybe maybe not.

  • Posts: 0 ashmidt

    james kay, that is some classic stuff, he had that wide-eyed, half-smiling, ready for anything look that is characteristic of a certain type of irishman. that sounds like racial profiling to me. i dont know wether to take it as a compliment or not. he didnt call him shanty irish. i guess it doesnt hurt to have that type of irishman if your fighting a war though. good stuff james.

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