Ryczek: The strange suicide of Win Mercer

From SABR member William Ryczek at The National Pastime Museum on July 6, 2015:

On the morning of January 12, 1903, a night watchman was sent to investigate the smell of gas emanating from Room 215 at San Francisco’s shabby Occidental Hotel. When no one answered his knock, the watchman kicked the door in, entered the room, and discovered the lifeless body of a man who’d registered as George Murray of Philadelphia. Dangling from the man’s mouth was a rubber hose connected to the room’s gas jet, and by his side was a note instructing whoever found him to tell Mr. Van Horn of the Langham Hotel that Winnie Mercer had taken his life.

Winnie was George Barclay Mercer, a 29-year-old pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who was slated to become their manager for the 1903 season. He’d been known as Win throughout his baseball career, supposedly because of his ability to win. During his tenure in the Major Leagues, however, Win lost more than he won, posting a 132–164 record over nine seasons, mostly with the hapless Washington club of the National League. Mercer was a strong hitter, and on days he wasn’t pitching, he played every position except catcher, posting a respectable .285 career batting average. Mercer was in San Francisco because he was pitching and serving as treasurer for a postseason barnstorming team.

In addition to the instructions delivered to Van Horn, Mercer left three notes, one to his mother, one to his 23-year-old fiancée, Martha Porter, and a third to Tip O’Neill, one of the organizers of the tour. He apologized to his mother for the grief he’d caused her but insisted he was doing the right thing. The letter to Porter, written, he said, with tears streaming down his cheeks, was similar and likewise begged forgiveness. The final letter told O’Neill where the money he’d been holding as treasurer could be found.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/strange-suicide-win-mercer

Originally published: July 9, 2015. Last Updated: July 9, 2015.