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Worst personal tragedies

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  • Worst personal tragedies

    Life dealt some ballplayers a pretty crappy hand. Take Sam Rice: The poor guy lost his wife, two kids, his mother and two younger siblings, along with a hired hand on the family farm, when a tornado hit in 1912.

    John J. McGraw had a tough way to go, too. He lost his mother and four siblings from diphtheria, and after that, his father thrashed him to within an inch of his life to the point where the boy ran away from home.

    And Ty Cobb had a tough personal issue to carry around with him. Imagine a young Southern boy having to deal with the fact that his mother killed his father -- and if that wasn't bad enough, the whispers about the circumstances surrounding the killing (that his mother was sleeping around on Ty's beloved father) had to weigh heavy on the mind of the 18-year-old boy.

    Babe Ruth also had a tough childhood, growing up in what amounted to a prison.

    What are some other personal tragedies to befall ballplayers?
    "Hey Mr. McGraw! Can I pitch to-day?"

  • #2
    Was it Bob Bailey whose wife died during his playing career? He felt that he had to keep playing to support the kids, so he couldn't even spend much time with them to help them deal with the loss of their mother.
    It was in one of the Bill James Baseball Books, I might have the wrong player.
    "I throw him four wide ones, then try to pick him off first base." - Preacher Roe on pitching to Musial

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    • #3
      Former Yankees, Brewers and Blue Jays reliever Graeme Lloyd lost his wife at a young age to Crohn's disease.

      I seem to remember a story about Melvin Nieves losing a child to a disease, I dont remember which though.
      Lets Go Yankees, Valley Cats, Dutchmen, UT Spartans and ECU Pirates.

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      • #4
        McGraw also lost his young wife in August of the 1899 season. It was his first season managing and he led the stripped Orioles to a surprising fourth place finish- which would have been higher without the tragedy. Considering that he also hit .391 that season with an all time record .547 OBP, it's an unbelievable season in the face of disaster.

        he was rewarded with a then record 10,000 dollar contract for 1900 by St. Louis with the reserve clause removed before he'd sign it.
        "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

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        • #5
          I think Cobb's personal tragedy had the most impact on the history of baseball. Had that not happened, I don't think we'd be talking about him as much as we do. That shaped his personality more than anything else.

          Don't think it has been mentioned yet, but I'm pretty sure Walter Johnson's wife and the mother of his kids just dropped dead of heatstroke or something very suddenly in her mid 30's.
          sigpic

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          • #6
            There was a guy on the Dodgers in the 70's, I've been trying to remember who. Was it Wes Parker ? Who lost his wife and kids in an automobile accident.

            Grady Little has a very sad story also. His daughter, who I think was a young mother, took her own life a few years ago. I remember reading an article about him when he took the LA job. He said something along the lines of 'nothing that takes place on a ball field is a tradgedy or is gonna make me sad'.

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            • #7
              Jerome Williams I know had a very tough life with regards to his parents (IIRC...I know his mother died of breast cancer and I think his father died of some ailment during his childhood) both dying premature deaths.

              Mets lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano's performance down the stretch in 2007 was severely affected by his baby daughter having a rare heart condition that most infants die of. However, Pedro's daughter thankfully pulled through, though is still somewhat frail.

              Pokey Reese has had a life wracked by tragedy...

              http://www.boston.com/sports/basebal..._fast_forward/
              "They put me in the Hall of Fame? They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel!"
              -Eppa Rixey, upon learning of his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

              Motafy (MO-ta-fy) vt. -fied, -fying 1. For a pitcher to melt down in a big game situation; to become like Guillermo Mota. 2. The transformation of a good pitcher into one of Guillermo Mota's caliber.

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              • #8
                This wasn't like a true tragedy where someone died, but I feel sorry for this guy... Johnny Mostil

                "Though he hit a career-high .328 in 1926, on March 9, 1927, he tried to kill himself in his Shreveport hotel room, inflicting 13 razor cuts to his wrist, neck, and arms. The press reported that Mostil suffered from neuritis, but rumors circulated that Mostil was having an affair with the wife of teammate Red Faber, and attempted suicide when Faber found out and threatened to kill him. Mostil recovered and returned by the end of the season, but played less than two more years."
                "Back before I injured my hip, I thought going to the gym was for wimps."
                Bo Jackson

                Actually, I think they were about the same because I lettered in all sports, and I was a two-time state decathlon champion.
                Bo Jackson

                My sophomore year I placed 2nd, and my junior and senior year - I got smart and piled up enough points between myself and second place where I didn't have to run the mile.
                Bo Jackson

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                • #9
                  Bobo Newsom was, believe it or not, the ace of the AL champ Detroit Tigers in 1940. Game one of the World Series was scheduled for Briggs Stadium, and Bobo's father took the train from South Carolina to see his son pitch. Shortly after arriving, the senior Mr. Newsom died of a heart attack. Tigers manager Del Baker asked Bobo if he wanted to be excused from pitching, but Bobo told him that he'd rather dedicate his pitching to his late father.

                  Bobo went on to pitch an inspired series, winning games 7-2 and 8-0 before losing Game Seven 2-1, pitching on one day's rest.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Gee Walker View Post
                    Bobo Newsom was, believe it or not, the ace of the AL champ Detroit Tigers in 1940. Game one of the World Series was scheduled for Briggs Stadium, and Bobo's father took the train from South Carolina to see his son pitch. Shortly after arriving, the senior Mr. Newsom died of a heart attack. Tigers manager Del Baker asked Bobo if he wanted to be excused from pitching, but Bobo told him that he'd rather dedicate his pitching to his late father.

                    Bobo went on to pitch an inspired series, winning games 7-2 and 8-0 before losing Game Seven 2-1, pitching on one day's rest.


                    Bobo's shutout, which he dedicated to his father before the game, is one of the most underrated Series performances ever.
                    "Hey Mr. McGraw! Can I pitch to-day?"

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Victory Faust View Post
                      Life dealt some ballplayers a pretty crappy hand...
                      John J. McGraw had a tough way to go, too. He lost his mother and four siblings from diphtheria, and after that, his father thrashed him to within an inch of his life to the point where the boy ran away from home.
                      John J. McGraw actually lost his mother to peritonitis and three siblings, not four, to diphtheria. His first two biographies misreported these facts and the rest of them, sad to say, repeated the errors without checking up on them. I just wanted to set the record straight.

                      I'm not sure about the thrashing story either. Some biographies say it was, and others do not. John McGraw's autobiography doesn't say he was thrashed to within an inch of his life, does it?
                      "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                      "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TonyK View Post
                        John J. McGraw actually lost his mother to peritonitis and three siblings, not four, to diphtheria. His first two biographies misreported these facts and the rest of them, sad to say, repeated the errors without checking up on them. I just wanted to set the record straight.

                        I'm not sure about the thrashing story either. Some biographies say it was, and others do not. John McGraw's autobiography doesn't say he was thrashed to within an inch of his life, does it?

                        It could be that this was misreported, but I wouldn't use the fact that it didn't show up in McGraw's autobiography as an indicator. Ty Cobb's autobiography doesn't say he stabbed a hotel detective in Cleveland, either. I wouldn't expect McGraw to write about his father beating the crap out of him, would you? Remember, these were the days before "Maury Povich" and even if one were inclined to discuss such private matters, it probably just wouldn't do.


                        I always thought Charles Alexander was a well-respected biographer, and he reports the beatings in his McGraw bio. Donald Honig also discusses it in "Baseball America."

                        Is there research to suggest otherwise? If so, could you post a link? Thanks...
                        "Hey Mr. McGraw! Can I pitch to-day?"

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                        • #13
                          Milt Pappas' wife, Carole, disappeared in 1982 after leaving the couple’s home in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton. A group known as the Ripper Crew were believed to have killed Mrs. Pappas in a satanic ritual.

                          For five years, there was no sign was found of her car, clothing, or body. In 1987, almost five years to the day Mrs. Pappas disappeared, workers draining a shallow pond only four blocks from the Pappas home discovered the car Mrs. Pappas had been driving, as well as her body. A DuPage County Coroner's jury ruled the cause of death as drowning. Police theorized Pappas mistook a driveway near the pond for a road leading to her subdivision, vaulting 25-30 feet from the bank into the pond.

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                          • #14
                            Wow, that's pretty messed up about Milt Pappas. A Satanic ritual? Wow...
                            "Hey Mr. McGraw! Can I pitch to-day?"

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Victory Faust View Post
                              It could be that this was misreported, but I wouldn't use the fact that it didn't show up in McGraw's autobiography as an indicator. Ty Cobb's autobiography doesn't say he stabbed a hotel detective in Cleveland, either. I wouldn't expect McGraw to write about his father beating the crap out of him, would you? Remember, these were the days before "Maury Povich" and even if one were inclined to discuss such private matters, it probably just wouldn't do.


                              I always thought Charles Alexander was a well-respected biographer, and he reports the beatings in his McGraw bio. Donald Honig also discusses it in "Baseball America."

                              Is there research to suggest otherwise? If so, could you post a link? Thanks...
                              Alexander's biography is wrong about the following details:

                              1. Year of epidemic
                              2. Time of year of epidemic
                              3. Number of siblings who died in the epidemic (it actually wasn't an epidemic)
                              4. The part of town where John McGraw was born in and grew up in
                              5. A mysterious half-sister and his father's first wife who never existed
                              6. The number of years of schooling his father had in Ireland

                              There has been a lot of primary source research done to confirm all six of these details. A geneology book written by a McGraw ancestor covers John McGraw's early years in great length and even lists the wrong details made by his biographers and reasons why they made the wrong conclusions.

                              I have read about McGraw's three siblings deaths in the local newspaper on microfilm and also visited the grave sites. The graves are marked McGrath, which was the family surname in Ireland. A Historical Society project confirms these errors.

                              So a lot of time has been spent in learning the true facts. Much more time than was spent by the biographers who supposedly researched them.

                              From McGraw's autobiography, Page 31: "As a left-handed hitter naturally hits into right field, I broke several window panes. In addition to several threatened thrashings my father had to pay 15 cents for each pane of glass broken.

                              I'm very surprised Alexander went along with some of the errors. Cait Murphy used the same wrong information in Crazy '08. Each biography tells a different story about the beatings.
                              "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                              "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

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