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November 17, 2011
The Lineup Card
11 Ballplayers Who Suffered Unusual Demises
1) Big Ed Delahanty
At the turn of the century, Delahanty found himself in the middle of the struggles between the National and American Leagues, with Big Ed trying hard to find the team that would pay him the most. As his financial troubles mounted, he took to drinking—and it didn't suit him well. On the night of July 2, 1903, Big Ed got on the train from Detroit to New York. He became disruptively drunk on the train—smoking, drinking, breaking things. Finally, the conductor had enough and ordered Del off the train in Bridgeburg, Ontario, on the Niagara River (on the border of Canada and the US). At some point, the drunk Delahanty tried to cross the International Bridge on foot. He didn't make it. He fell 25 feet into the water below, with his body washing up 20 miles away. No one knows if it was suicide or just an accident, as there are plenty of reasons to believe either story. To this day, it is one of professional baseball's greatest mysteries.It also happens to be a fantastic song from The Baseball Project:
2) Jae Kuk Ryu
3) Robb Nen
Two weeks before the next season was to begin, Nen continued to insist he would be ready for Opening Day, even though he hadn't yet pitched in an exhibition game. The Giants said he would be fine, just not ready, perhaps, to pitch three days in a row. But he didn't pitch at all that season. In April 2004, the Giants were a day away from activating him; after a bullpen session, though, he couldn't lift his arm over his head. He didn't pitch that year, either. And in the offseason before 2005, he said he felt better than he had in two years, but two months later, as players were reporting for Spring Training, he retired. It's arguably inspiring that he sacrificed his career trying to pitch his team to the World Series; it's heartbreaking that he did it and still watched his team lose. It was particularly hard on his trainer, Stan Conte. "It's my job, our job, to get the players back on the field, and we couldn't get the right combination," Conte said. —Sam Miller
4) Lyman Bostock
5) Cory Lidle
We didn’t know, we couldn’t know, that Cory Lidle lived his dreams. Among those dreams, he had a family, he made it to the major leagues, and he had learned to fly a plane.
On October 11, 2006, Lidle lost his life as the small plane he was flying in crashed into a condominium building in New York. The Cirrus Design SR-20 took off from Teterboro Regional Airport in New Jersey at about 2:30 PM, flew over the Statue of Liberty, and roughly 12 minutes after takeoff, fell off the radar as it crashed, claiming the life of Lidle and his instructor. At the time, it was not known that the plane was Lidle’s or that he was even on board. As a result, fighter jets were scrambled into the skies of major cities across the country; our nation feared the worst—a plane flew into a building in New York. This was obviously not an act of terror but rather the shocking, tragic loss of Cory Lidle, father to Christopher, husband to Melanie, and eternal member of our baseball family. —Adam Tower
6) Eric Show
In 1984, Show played for the first Padres team ever to win the National League pennant. Less than 10 years later, on March 16, 1994, he became the second member of that team (Alan Wiggins beat him by three years) to pass from this earth.
Show, a physics major in college, once told a newspaper reporter that “as long as air has weight, I'll have a slider.” This is hardly the stuff of Crash Davis clichés. Neither is the fact that Show was an accomplished jazz guitarist and composer.
On the field, he was no less complicated and often found himself at the eye of the storm. In 1985, Show gave up Pete Rose's 4192nd hit, then sat on the mound while the world celebrated. Two years later, he drilled Andre Dawson in the face with a fastball that sparked a melee and led to seven ejections.
Show had back surgery in 1989 and pitched poorly for the Padres the following year, prompting boos from fans, as well as feuds with teammate Jack Clark and pitching coach Pat Dobson. Show gave his career one last shot with the Oakland A's in 1991, but at age 35, he had nothing left to offer baseball.
After retiring, Show dropped 20 pounds and spent much of his time in drug rehab centers. Whether it was the pain from surgery, a troubled childhood (in another gross understatement, Show's college coach said that his dad, Les Show, a street fighter from Pittsburgh with a short fuse, was “a very difficult father”), or some combination of factors known and unknown, Show couldn't break free from drugs. He died of an overdose at age 37 in a facility 32 miles southeast of Jack Murphy Stadium. —Geoff Young
7) Nick Adenhart
The Maryland native had taken an unusual route to the big leagues. He ranked as one of the top high-school prospects in the country in 2004 but learned a month before the June draft that he needed Tommy John surgery. The Angels drafted and signed Adenhart despite the injury, and the 14th-round gamble had only just begun to pay off. At age 21, he was the youngest active pitcher in baseball when the Angels promoted him for a brief, three-start stint in 2008. The right-hander made the starting rotation out of spring training the following season, fulfilling a lifelong dream. But tragically, his dream was cut short.
On April 9, 2009, hours after making his first start of the season, Adenhart was a passenger in a Mitsubishi Eclipse that was broadsided by a Toyota Sienna minivan driven by Andrew Gallo, a 23-year-old man with a suspended license and a blood-alcohol content level nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08. Investigators determined the Sienna was traveling at more than twice the posted 35 mph speed limit at the time of the collision. A jury convicted Gallo of three counts of second-degree murder for his role in the crash, and he is serving 51 years-to-life in prison.
Nick Adenhart was 22 years old. —Jeff Euston
8) Bo Diaz
Diaz met his unfortunate fate on November 30th, 1990. High winds that day knocked his satellite dish offline, so he went up to fix it. As he was adjusting it, the dish collapsed. Diaz’s head and neck were crushed, killing him instantly. He was 37 years old at the time. —Corey Dawkins
9) Manny Ramirez
10) Thurman Munson
On August 2, 1979, the Yankees organization and all of baseball were shocked and saddened to hear that Munson had lost his life in a plane crash. In fairness to the legacy of Thurman Munson, I researched what others had written and/or composed. One of the pieces I found captured the story better than anything else I read, and as a result, I will allow the story of this Yankees legend to be told by Yankees fans. —Adam Tower
11) Arky Vaughan
The Sporting News observed that Vaughan had a wide stance and swung hard at the ball. “He’ll rupture himself some time,” a Giants player once remarked. Overhearing this, Giants second sacker Hughie Critz retorted, “he’s already ruptured me, trying to get in front of those balls he hits to right field.”
The quiet Arky was elected to the Hall of Fame via an unusually perceptive vote by the Veteran’s Committee in 1985. His former teammate Billy Herman remarked, “he never sought this fame and glory that is now his.” Unfortunately, Arky had no choice; he had drowned in 1952 when his fishing boat capsized in “Lost Lake” in California, a shallow body inside the crater of an extinct volcano. The lake was apparently neither deep nor particularly wide, and Vaughan and a companion made it within about 20 feet of the shore before succumbing to the extremely cold water. He left behind a wife and four children.—Steven Goldman