When Hideki Irabu was found dead in his California home in July 2011, he became the third ex-Yankee franchise player who’s death was ruled a suicide. The two other suicide victims were both born on July 15th.
Dan McGann was a very good switch-hitting big league first baseman who became best friends with the legendary John McGraw when the two were National League teammates and starting infielders on the 1898 Baltimore Orioles. A native of Shelbyville, Kentucky, McGann was considered one of the league’s better first basemen.
He and McGraw were split up in 1899 when McGraw was traded to St Louis and McGann went to Brooklyn. Two years later they were reunited in St Louis. Then in 1901, McGraw was wooed back to Baltimore to manage that city’s first American League franchise, also called the Orioles. One year later, Little Napoleon convinced McGann to join him there and become the team’s starting first baseman in 1902. He did well in that role, averaging .316 during the 68 games he played for the team that season. But when McGraw couldn’t get along with or trust AL President Ban Johnson, he decided to leave the O’s to accept the New York Giants’ field skipper’s position, McGann again packed his bags and accompanied his old friend. In New York, McGraw made McGann his starting first baseman in a move that just may have changed the course of Giants’ history. Before McGann arrived, Christy Matthewson had been playing first base for the team in between his starts on the mound. After McGann showed up, McGraw made the then 21-year-old Matthewson a full-time pitcher and he would go on to win 373 big league games.
Meanwhile, McGann’s bat, glove and speed on the base paths helped the Giants capture the 1904 and ’05 pennants and the first-ever World Series, with their victory over the A’s in ’05. But as McGann aged he lost a step and in the Dead Ball era, when a player’s speed was especially critical to his offensive value, his average plummeted by over 60 points in 1906, his last full season as a Giant starter. His failure to produce on the field also had a negative impact on his relationship with McGraw off of it. They went from best drinking buddies to barely speaking to each other and in 1908, McGraw traded McGann to the Braves.
Two years later, on December 10, 1910, McGann’s lifeless body was found in a Louisville hotel room, the victim of a gunshot to the chest. The death was ruled a suicide. Two of McGann’s sisters disputed that finding, citing a missing diamond ring as evidence their brother had been murdered during a robbery attempt. Others however pointed to the deterioration of his playing skills and tragic family history as reasons why they thought the coroner had ruled correctly. One of McGann’s brothers had killed himself the previous year, another brother had died from an accidental shooting and one of his sisters had also killed herself.
|NYG (6 yrs)||682||2835||2430||360||678||94||42||16||290||151||224||151||.279||.358||.372||.730|
|BSN (2 yrs)||178||740||646||77||169||14||12||4||85||11||50||40||.262||.338||.339||.677|
|STL (2 yrs)||224||976||867||152||247||25||18||10||114||43||48||72||.285||.356||.390||.745|
|WHS (1 yr)||77||321||284||65||96||9||8||5||58||11||14||12||.338||.405||.479||.884|
|BLN (1 yr)||145||635||535||99||161||18||8||5||106||33||53||30||.301||.404||.393||.796|
|BRO (1 yr)||63||259||214||49||52||11||4||2||32||16||21||16||.243||.362||.360||.722|
|BLA (1 yr)||68||285||250||40||79||10||8||0||42||17||19||13||.316||.378||.420||.798|
Bubbles and his brother Pinky made careers out of back-up catching. His real first name was Eugene and he was four years older than Pinky. He played in 852 big league games in a career that spanned a dozen seasons, most of them in Cincinnati. For a part-time player, Bubbles could really handle the bat. In fact, he won the NL batting title in 1926 with a .353 average back when all a hitter had to do to qualify was appear in 100 games (Bubble had 115 hits in just 326 at bats that season.) He retired with a very noteworthy .310 lifetime batting average. The Reds let him go after the 1928 season and he spent all of 1929 catching for a double A franchise in St Paul, MN. In 1930, the Yankees signed him to back up their young catching phee-nom, Bill Dickey. Hargrave appeared in 45 games that season for New York, hitting .278. He then caught for a few more years in the minors before hanging his tools of ignorance up for good. He was born on July 15, 1892 in New Haven, IN. He died in 1969 in his adopted hometown of Cincinnati.
|CIN (8 yrs)||766||2671||2367||298||744||146||57||29||359||27||206||147||.314||.377||.461||.838|
|CHC (3 yrs)||41||60||58||5||12||2||1||0||5||2||1||9||.207||.220||.276||.496|
|NYY (1 yr)||45||121||108||11||30||7||0||0||12||0||10||9||.278||.339||.343||.682|
Those of you who have been long-time readers of my blog might remember this post I wrote last Christmas for the former Yankee third baseman and outfielder, Ben Chapman. In it, I described him as being one of the meanest players ever to put on a Yankee uniform and a racist. So you might think that open-minded Yankee fans would have breathed a sigh of relief when on June 14, 1936 the Yankees traded Chapman to the Senators for Washington outfielder Jake Powell. The problem was that Powell was probably even more ornery and a bigger racist than Chapman.
At first, the trade was a God send for New York. Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy put the Silver Spring, Maryland native in left field and moved his super rookie, Joe DiMaggio to center. Powell hit .302 during the balance of the 1936 regular season and a whopping .455 in the Yankees six-game victory over the Giants in that year’s World Series. But his bat cooled off quite a bit during the 1937 season and with young Yankee outfield prospects like Tommy Henrich and Charlie Keller emerging from the farm system, he started seeing less and less playing time.
Powell’s ornery personality didn’t help matters. In a pre-game interview during the 1938 season, a reporter asked him what it was like to be a police officer in the off season. Powell replied he that he enjoyed cracking n—–s over the head and putting them in jail. Those comments earned him a suspension by Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. He was suspended a second time that same season when he got into a fist fight with Red Sox player-manager, Joe Cronin on the field after Powell was beaned by a Boston pitcher and then he again attacked Cronin underneath the stands in Fenway Park after the game. Manager Joe McCarthy loved Powell’s fiery play on the field and his willingness to do anything asked of him to help win a game. After his bigoted remarks, the Yankees forced Powell to tour saloons and social clubs in Harlem and apologize for what he said. He did exactly that without complaint.
During a 1940 exhibition game against the Dodgers, Powell suffered a concussion in a violent collision with a fence in the outfield. By the time he recovered, he had lost his spot on the Yankee roster and his contract was sold to a team in the Pacific Coast League. He got back to the big leagues by 1943 but only because of the player shortage caused by WWII. When the war ended so did Powell’s career. In 1948, the troubled outfielder ended his own life by shooting himself in the head in a Washington DC police station right before he was about to be booked for writing bad checks.
As a side note, Powell was involved in a very significant moment in Yankee franchise history. It took place in Washington DC’s Griffith Stadium on September 30th 1934. In the eighth inning, Babe Ruth hit a long fly ball to center field which was caught by Powell, who was then still a Senator. This was the final official at bat Ruth had in a Yankee uniform.
|WSH (7 yrs)||368||1518||1397||182||386||60||18||8||189||37||88||108||.276||.322||.362||.685|
|NYY (5 yrs)||272||1066||970||158||263||51||8||13||124||27||77||98||.271||.327||.380||.708|
|PHI (1 yr)||48||183||173||13||40||5||0||1||14||1||8||13||.231||.265||.277||.543|