Washington Nationals: D.C. Baseball History, December 25th.

• December, 25: This Day In Washington Baseball History...(The Continuing Attempt To Educate A Montreal Fan About DC Baseball History...)

Thirty-two-year old Skip Selbach had a problem when he returned to the Washington Senators in 1903 for a second stint in the nation's capital. The problem's name was Ed Delahanty, the Senators' hard-hitting left fielder who was coming off a .376/.453/.590 1902 season which saw the then-34-year-old Cleveland, Ohio-native hit a league-leading 43 doubles with 14 triples, 10 HR's and 93 RBI's in 123 games. According to Bill James in, "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract By Bill James", Selbach was moved to right field from his more-familiar spot in left and he struggled defensively after Delahanty was asked and refused to move, leading to disagreements between the two and between Selbach and Senators' center fielder Jimmy Ryan, who'd, "complained to [manager Tom] Loftus he had no faith in Selbach in right field."

The first time around in D.C., a then-22-year-old 5'9'', 175 lb, Selbach, who'd debuted in 1894 with a .306/.390/.511 line in 94 games and 372 at bats, was the Senators' starting left fielder, hitting over .300 with an OBP over .400 in each of his first three full seasons before a .303/.383/.417 1898 campaign, after which he was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds for $5,000 on Christmas Day, December 25, 1898. Selbach played just one season in Cincinnati, and was not well-liked by reporters who called him a "human rain delay" according to Bill James, because of his habit of, "hitching up his trousers, kneeling and fussing with his shoe, and brushing every speck of dust from his uniform before stepping in to hit."

Selbach was purchased by the New York Giants in December 1901, and he reluctantly played two seasons in NY in which he was, "hated by New York fans, the Giants players, and the New York press," as Bill James writes, because of his pro-Cincinnati stance in a dispute over an attempted merger gone wrong. Selbach managed to put up a .313/.389/.420 slash line during his time in NY, in spite of the tense atmosphere between the player and city. After the 1901 season in NY, Selbach signed with the Baltimore Orioles, who'd leave Baltimore the next year to become the New York Highlanders and eventually the New York Yankees. Selbach didn't go back to New York, returning to Washington instead.

While the Senators had been a National League team during his first stint, they were now in the American League, and they already had a left fielder, who was one of the highest paid players at the time, who had no intention of moving. Unfortunately, tragedy struck the Senators that season and resolved the situation in the outfield. Big Ed Delahanty got drunk and unruly and got kicked off the team train which was returning from Detroit through Buffalo, NY. Left off before the International Bridge, which spans the Niagara River, Delahanty tried to cross the bridge on foot and somehow fell into the waterway which eventually leads to Niagara Falls. Delahanty, who was hitting .333 with a .388 OBP and a .436 SLG 42 games into the '03 season, died either before or when he was swept over the falls....Delahanty was 35 years old when he died in July of 1903. 

Selbach would leave Washington for the second time during the 1904 season, when a trade sent him to Boston, and gave him a chance to help the Boston Americans win the American League pennant, beating the NY Highlanders, in one of two seasons since 1903 in which a World Series wasn't played. Selbach would play two more seasons with Boston before retiring from the game at 34-years-of-age and returning to Columbus, Ohio, where he'd live til February, 17th 1956 when he passed away, 58 years after he'd been purchased by Cincinnati on Christmas Day 1898.

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