Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Players Who Struggled With Mental Illness (Part VIII--Ed Doheny)

A left-handed pitcher, Doheny joined the Giants in 1895 and spent portions of seven seasons in New York, posting a 37-69 record for a team that rarely contended. Doheny had control issues early in his career, tossing 40 wild pitches and plunking 57 batters between 1898 and 1899 (the highest totals in the NL). His worst season came in 1900, when he won just 4 of 18 decisions and accrued an ugly ERA of 5.45. Released by the Giants in July of 1901, the Pirates grabbed him off of the scrap heap. Doheny enjoyed a career revival in Pittsburgh, compiling a 38-14 record with a 2.75 ERA during his two and a half seasons there. But his rise to stardom was cut short by mental illness.

Doheny had been behaving erratically throughout his career. In 1897, he was suspended repeatedly for "breaches of discipline." Whether or not this can be attributed to his illness is uncertain as the Giants were owned by Andrew Freedman at the time, a tyrannical leader described by one source as having a "violent temper and ungovernable tongue." He was certainly not an easy man to work for, especially for someone as unstable as Doheny. 

Despite various behavioral problems, Doheny held it together (more or less) until 1903. Off to an excellent 12-6 start, he began consuming massive amounts of alcohol and acting strangely. This led to a handful of unpleasant run-ins with teammates. He became convinced that he was being followed by detectives and left the team without permission in July. Newspapers speculated accurately that he was not of sound mind. Though he added four more wins to his season total, the Pirates were forced to grant him a leave of absence near seasons' end when his behavior became unmanageable. He returned to his home in Andover, Mass and was placed under constant care of a physician.

Doheny's condition worsened and, while his Pirates were playing against Boston in the first official World Series, he suffered a final psychotic break. On October 10th, he literally threw his doctor out the front door of his home and told him never to return. On the morning of October 11th, Doheny viciously attacked his male nurse with a cast iron stove leg, seriously injuring the man. Doheny's wife fled to a neighbor's house during the altercation and called the police. Doheny met authorities at the door, waving a fireplace poker around and daring them to take him away. They did exactly that, escorting him to Danvers State Asylum, where he remained for more than a decade. 

In 1905, former Pittsburgh outfielder Jimmie Sebring paid Doheny a visit at the facility. When Sebring told Doheny that he had left the Pirates for Cincinnati, Doheny became agitated. “So they ran you out of there just as they did me!” He snarled. “They threw it to me good. And you were one of those who gave it to me, too!” A reporter for the Pittsburgh Press recounted the incident and commented that “Doheny will never recover. Danvers, a tomb for the living, will hold him until the end.” That statement wasn’t entirely correct as the former pitching standout was transferred to the Medfield State Asylum in 1916. He died in December of that year. It seems more than likely that he was suffering from schizophrenia.   

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