Grave Story: Joe Delahanty (1875-1936)


Here lies Joe Delahanty, who had a long and pretty successful minor- and independent-league career before playing for a short time in the major leagues. Delahanty, an outfielder and second baseman, played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1907-1909.

Joe Delahanty’s grave in Calvary Cemetery, Cleveland.

Joseph Nicholas Delahanty was born on October 18, 1875 in Cleveland. Like all his other brothers, the success of Ed Delahanty in the National League helped ease Joe’s path into organized baseball. He was playing for a team called the Quinns, presumably in Ohio, before leaving to Quincy, Ill., to join a team there in 1896. Unfortunately, he became ill, so his professional career would have to start a year later, in 1897.

The Cleveland Spiders tentatively signed Delahanty in ’97, but he never appeared in an actual game. News of his signing broke on April 22, but within two weeks, he was playing instead with the Fall River Indians of the New England League as a third baseman. He played for a couple of other teams on the East Coast as well that season. Statistics for Delahanty’s early career are incomplete, but the numbers that are available show a batting average above .340.

Delahanty played with Paterson and Allentown of the Atlantic League in 1898. The Allentown Peanuts could feature up to three Delahantys in the lineup at any given time, as he joined older brother Tom and younger brother Jim Delahanty when he left Paterson. The combination of Tom at second base, Joe in center field and Jim at shortstop proved a successful one. The 1899 season is the first one where Joe Delahanty’s stats are available. He hit an eye-popping 30 triples for the Peanuts while batting .344 and stealing 24 bases.

By the dawn of the 20th Century, Ed was a superstar in the majors, but Joe was at a similar level in the minor leagues. His stature in Allentown was such that he could hold out for more money and win. He left the Peanuts in the middle of 1900 to spend time with the Montreal Royals of the Eastern League. He batted .292 for the Royals in 1901, hitting 34 doubles and 16 triples. Aside from a fairly unsuccessful sojourn to the Southern Association in 1903 that ended with his release by the New Orleans Pelicans, Delahanty stayed with the Eastern League for several years. Not many statistics are available, but he hit in the .270s and .280s with a high mark of .313 for the Buffalo Bisons in 1905.

There were multiple rumors over the years that some major-league team would sign Delahanty, but nothing ever materialized. By 1906, he had left the Eastern League to play with the independent Williamsport Millionaires of the Tri-State League. Brother Tom joined him, but Joe was the better brother on this team. He hit .279 with 23 doubles, 17 triples and 5 homers in 1906, while Tom hit .168 in 101 at-bats.

Delahanty, at the age of 31, put together his best season in professional baseball for the Millionaires in 1907. In 108 games, he hit a league-leading .355 and slugged .524. After a decade in the minor leagues, the St. Louis Cardinals brought him to the majors at the end of September.

Source: Buffalo Express, April 9, 1905.

The Cardinals were dead last in the major leagues at that point, with about a week left in the season. Manager Jack McCloskey had made a flurry of roster moves to try and find a winning combination. He signed Delahanty after watching him hit in the Tri-State League that summer. “One ball in particular, he says, is still traveling,” reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper called him a dead ringer for dearly departed Ed Delahanty.

“He stands erect at the plate and grips a heavy bat at the handle. His strength and the weight of his bat makes all his grounders hard to handle and only those hit straight at the fielders are captured,” the Dispatch added.

Delahanty played his first game on September 30, 1907 against the Boston Braves. He made an error in left field, but he got 3 hits in 4 at-bats and stole 3 bases as well. He finished the season as the Cardinals left fielder and hit .318 in the seven remaining games of the season.

Delahanty was a rare bright spot in the Cardinals otherwise abysmal 1908 season. His .255 batting average was third-best among the team’s regulars. He slugged .333 and got on base at a .309 percentage – none of which are great numbers but still gave him an OPS+ of 109, relative to the rest of the league. He was a fine defensive left fielder as well.

At the end of the year, McClockey was fired in favor of Roger Bresnahan. The Cardinals promised sweeping changes, and the only players on the active roster who were assured of a spot in 1909 were first baseball Ed Konetchy, second baseman Billy Gilbert and Delahanty. Unfortunately, Delahanty’s offense vanished in his final season in the major leagues, as did his position in the starting lineup. The Cardinals added outfielders Steve Evans and Rube Ellis, and Delahanty ended up splitting his playing time between second base and center field, neither of which were his best positions. His batting average dropped to .215, and his on-base and slugging percentages fell below .300 as well. In December, Bresnahan sold Delahanty to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Eastern League. It was noted that Delahanty, now 33, had lost a step or two, and Bresnahan declared he wanted “none but hustlers” on his 1910 team.

In parts of three seasons, Delahanty played in 270 games and slashed .238/.301/.315. He had 222 hits, including 30 doubles, 15 triples and 4 home runs. He knocked in 100 RBIs and stole 24 bases.

Delahanty performed pretty well for the Maple Leafs in his two seasons with the team. He hit .287 and .265 in 1910 and ’11, and he hit 10 triples each season. He finished his playing career in 1912 for two different teams, including one in his native Cleveland. Although many of his statistics are missing, particularly early on in his career, he had a .292 lifetime batting average from the minor-league stats that are available.

Joe Delahanty’s retirement from baseball was quiet, according to his SABR biography. He got married in 1914 to Anastasia Hayes of Cleveland. He worked at a lithographer in his offseasons and then opened a tavern in Cleveland called Delahanty Brothers, with his brother, Willie. For the final 10 years of his life, Delahanty worked as a deputy sheriff in Cleveland. His job was to serve warrants in the civil division. He oversaw the care of his ailing mother, and that apparently led to squabbling among the surviving Delahanty children.

Joe Delahanty died on January 29, 1936, from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 60 years old and was the fourth of the baseball-playing brothers to pass away, leaving Frank as the sole survivor of the quintet. He, like most of his siblings, is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland.

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