Delahanty Brothers Made Baseball a Family Affair

You may not have heard of these baseball-playing brothers, but the Delahantys had five to appear in the major leagues, the most siblings of any family in history. They played in the very early years of the game, ranging from 1888 to 1915. Their careers ranged from Ed, who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, to Tom who appeared in only nineteen major league games. Brothers Jim, Frank and Joe had stints that fell in between those two extremes. A sixth brother, Will, briefly played professionally, but did not reach the majors.

Shortly after the Delahantys’ run, the O’Neill family had four brothers in the big leagues. And, of course, the most famous of multiple major league brothers are the DiMaggios, Joe, Dom and Vince, of the late 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s.

More recently, the three Molina brothers—Bengie, Jose, and Yadier–captured national attention when each of the catchers played on World Series championship teams in the 2000s. Yadier earned another World Series ring another in 2011.

Currently, Kyle Seager of the Mariners has two minor league brothers who have a good chance to reach the big leagues.

Following is a brief biography of the five major league Delahanty brothers.


Ed Delahanty

Ed was one of six total Delahanty brothers and five to play in the major leagues. They hold the record for most siblings to reach the major league level. The best of the lot, Ed began his professional career in 1887 with Mansfield of the Ohio State League, where he hit .351. After 21 games in the Tri State League in 1888, the second baseman was sold to Philadelphia of the National League for the then-record sum of $1,900. He made his debut on May 22 as the second baseman and went hitless in the game. A day later he got his first of 2,597 career hits off George Borchers of Chicago.

His first five years were solid by most standards, but they would actually pale against his stellar performance during the last eleven years. He jumped to the Cleveland club of Players League in 1890, only to return to Philadelphia the next year. By then, he had primarily become an outfielder and led the league in slugging average in 1892, based on his 30 doubles, 21 triples and six home runs. He put on a 6-for-6 performance on June 2, 1890, and would repeat this feat again, playing for Philadelphia on June 16, 1894.

Although playing in the deadball era, the 1893 season would be his best power season, hitting 19 home runs and 146 RBI. It would also be the first of seven seasons that he would hit for an average of greater than .350. He hit .407, .404, and .397 in 1894-1896, but did not lead the lead in any of these years. On July 13, 1896, he became only the second player in history to hit four home runs in a single game. Only nine more players have accomplished this feat since. On July 13-14, 1897, he reeled off 10 consecutive hits for Philadelphia. Between 1891 and 1895, he teamed with Billy Hamilton and Sam Thompson to form one of the best outfields in history. All three would be elected to the Hall of Fame.

In 1899 he did finally lead the league with a .410 average, as well as hits, doubles and RBI. On May 13, 1899, he clouted four doubles in a game, thus becoming the only player in history to hit both four home runs and four doubles in single games. He had a 31-game hitting streak during the 1899 season.

With the upstart American League trying to establish itself, Ed was offered $4,000 to jump to the Washington club of that league in 1902. After a counter offer from the New York Giants, he reluctantly made the switch to Washington and proceeded to lead the American League in hitting with a .376 average. He is the only player to lead both the American and National leagues in hitting.

On July 2, 1903, Ed disappeared from the team in Detroit a second time within a week, after being suspended. There was a report of a man fitting Ed’s description who had created a disturbance aboard a Michigan Central train bound for New York on the night of July 2. When the man, who had been drinking, began to terrify passengers with an open razor, the conductor removed him from the train when it reached the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. A night watchman spotted him attempting to walk across the Niagara River railroad bridge to the U. S. side, and he plunged into the river below. For one week, teammates, family and friends had no inkling of Ed’s whereabouts. On July 9th, the player’s body was found washed ashore, about 20 miles from the bridge. It was never determined whether the death of the 35-year-old was an accident or suicide.

Over his career, Ed hit for a .346 average, 4th on the all-time list. He got 2,596 hits, 100 home runs, 1,464 RBI, 1,599 runs scored, and 455 stolen bases. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945, the third youngest Hall of Famer to die.

Ed was the best of the Delahanty brothers who appears in the majors. Jim had a thirteen-year career, but the others, Frank, Tom and Joe, played sparingly. A sixth brother, Willie, starred in the minors and was signed by the Dodgers, but before he could report for National League duty, he was hit in the head by a pitched ball and soon gave up the game afterward.


Frank Delahanty

Frank was the youngest of five Delahanty brothers to play in the major leagues. Sixteen years younger than his famed brother, Ed, Frank made his professional debut in 1902 with Atlanta of the Southern League. The outfielder played three more seasons in the minors before making his major league debut with the American League New York Highlanders in August 1905. He batted .238 as a semi-regular in 1906. He had been sitting out the 1907 season while studying medicine at Baldwin Wallace College, near Cleveland, when the Yankees traded him to the Cleveland club managed by Nap Lajoie. He would later return to the Yankees in 1908 when they bought him from the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association.

In 1909 he began five seasons in the American Association, playing the outfield for Louisville, Indianapolis, St. Paul, and Minneapolis. His batting averages ranged from .237 to 276 during that timeframe. When the Federal League was formed to challenge the American and National leagues in 1914, he signed with Buffalo and later Pittsburgh, only although the league folded in its second year. He spent one more season in the minors before retiring.

Over his six-year major league career, he played 286 games, hitting for a .226 average, 5 home runs and 94 RBI. In 1,189 minor league games, he collected 1,095 hits for a .254 average and stole 260 bases.


Jim Delahanty

Jim was the second-best of the family of Delahantys who would play in the major leagues. His major league career was just starting when his brother Ed’s was abruptly ended by his tragic drowning in 1903.

He played three minor league seasons before making his major league debut on April 19, 1901, with the Chicago Cubs. He appeared in only 17 games that year and then only seven with the New York Giants the next year. He played two seasons with Little Rock in the Southern Association, leading the league in hitting (.383) in 1903. He became the regular third baseman with the Boston Beaneaters in 1904. This began a series of moderately productive seasons, when he also played for Cincinnati, St. Louis Browns, and Washington. He was traded by the Senators to Detroit for Germany Schaefer and Red Killefer in August 1909, and he arrived just in time to help the Tigers win their third straight pennant. In World Series play, he led the Tigers in hitting, but they lost to the Pirates in seven games.

Jim would have three more good seasons with Detroit, including the best of his career in 1911. He hit for a .339 average, with 30 doubles, 14 triples and 94 RBI, as Hughie Jennings’ club finished in second place. He played a full season with Minneapolis of the American Association in 1913. In 1914, he jumped to the Brooklyn team of the Federal League, and when the league folded in its second year in 1915, he played until 1916 in the minors.

Jim played every position except catcher during his career. His fielding average was an unimpressive .939. Offensively, he compiled a .283 batting average, 191 doubles, 60 triples, 18 home runs and 489 RBI. In 830 minor league games, he hit for a .305 average, based on 948 hits. Four of his brothers, Ed, Frank, Joe and Tom played in the major leagues and another brother, Will, played in the minors.


Joe Delahanty

Joe was one of five Delahanty brothers to play in the major leagues. He made his professional debut in the New England League in 1897, where he hit for a .344 average in 25 games. He then played two and a half seasons in the Atlantic League where he hit .344 and .469, before progressing to the Eastern League in 1900. He rapped out 30 triples in 86 games in 1899. Joe played both infield and outfield positions. In 1903, he briefly played in the Southern Association for 48 games and hit .371, in between stints with Montreal, Worcester and Buffalo. In 1906 and 1907 he started in the outfield for Williamsport of the Tri-State League and led the league in hitting in 1907 with a .355 average.

He arrived as a 31-year-old rookie with the St. Louis Cardinals in in 1907, but his debut year was brief, playing only seven games. The outfielder/second baseman, played two more seasons with St. Louis, but did nothing significant to help some woeful teams that finished more than 50 games out of first place.   The right-handed hitter batted .255 and 44 RBI in 1908 and .214 with 54 RBI in 1909. Joe returned to the Eastern League where he played two seasons with Toronto. In 1912 he played 60 games in his final professional season split between the United States League and New York State League.

His career overlapped with his brother Jim’s, but they did not play against or with each other. For his career, Joe hit .238 with 4 home runs and 100 RBI in 269 games. In 1,423 minor league games, his statistics were much better: .303 average, 287 doubles, 170 triples, and 55 home runs in 5.405 at-bats.


Tom Delahanty

Tom had the briefest career of the five Delahanty brothers who played in the major leagues. He made his professional debut in 1894 with Peoria of the Western League, where he hit .297 in 101 games. He made his major league debut at age 22 with the Philadelphia Phillies on September 29 of that same year. He got one hit in his only game on the same team as older brother Ed.

The second baseman spent the 1895 season in the minors, hitting .290, three home runs, and 29 doubles and stole 65 bases for Atlanta in the Southern Association and also played 16 games for Detroit of the Western League. He played 17 games with Cleveland and Pittsburgh of the National League in 1896 and spent most of the season with the 4th-place Toronto of the Eastern League. In 1897 he played one game for Louisville in the National League and split the rest of the season between the Western League and Atlantic League. After two more minor league seasons, he appeared in three games for Cleveland again. In his remaining six additional minor league seasons, he managed to hit above .300 on three occasions, including 1903 when he also managed Denver of the Western League.

In his three-year career, he played in a total of 19 games, hitting .239, no home runs and 6 RBI. In his 13-year minor league career, he hit for a .295 average and scored 1,001 runs in 1,304 games. He collected 1,545 hits, 212 doubles, 78 triples and 26 home runs. His four brothers, Ed, Frank, Jim and Joe, played in the majors between 1888 and 1915. Another brother, Will, also played in the minors. His brothers, Joe and Jim, were on the same team with him at Allentown in the Atlantic League during 1898 through 1900.

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi,