FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – He hit .354 as a rookie in 1897, had a lifetime batting average of .305, and helped lead Boston to the first World Series title in 1903. Fort Wayne’s Charles “Chick” Stahl could have been a Hall of Famer – if he didn’t die at the age of 34.
Stahl was born in Avilla to a large Catholic family (wide-ranging accounts list him as one of nine children up to one of 24), but moved to Fort Wayne at the age of seven when his father, Reuben, relocated his carpentry business. After taking up baseball, Stahl signed his first professional contract in 1895 with Roanoke of the Virginia League. After advancing to Buffalo, Stahl got his shot at the majors in 1897 with the National League’s Boston Beaneaters, hitting .354 as a rookie. A star outfielder, Stahl played for the Beaneaters through 1900.
Nicknamed “The Husky Hoosier” for his stocky 5-foot-10, 160-pound frame, Stahl was reportedly popular with fans for his strong play, earnest attitude, and good looks.
Starting in 1901, Stahl played for the Boston Americans of the American League. In what is considered the first World Series, Stahl hit three triples and scored six runs for Boston in a best-of nine series against the Pittsburgh Pirates to help the Americans win the title four games to three.
Stahl continued to be one of the better outfielders in baseball, and was named Boston’s player-manager in December of 1906 after serving as interim manager for the suspended Jimmy Collins at the end of the 1906 season while the team struggled.
While at spring training – which was held in Stahl’s home-state of Indiana at West Baden, Stahl committed suicide at the age of 34 by drinking carbolic acid. By many news accounts, his last words that day of March 28, 1907 were “It drove me to it.”
While there was great speculation as to what Stahl’s final words referred to, his friend, David Murphy, committed suicide in Fort Wayne two days later also by drinking carbolic acid. A note left by Murphy reportedly wrote, “Bury me beside Chick.”
Stahl, who was married just months before his suicide, left behind a wife named Julia who was murdered under suspicious circumstances in Boston a year and a half after Stahl’s death.
While many articles have theorized about other reasons for his suicide (including the pressure of taking over for his best friend and teammate Collins as Boston’s manager), it remains a mystery to this day.
Statistically, Stahl was one of the better outfielders of the “deadball” era. In 1,304 games he collected 1,546 hits with a .305 average. He also tallied 858 runs scored, 118 triples, 36 home runs, 189 stolen bases, and a .369 on-base percentage in 10 major league seasons. He was also considered one of the better defensive outfielders of his time.
While his numbers are strong, they fall short of most standards for induction into Cooperstown. Presumably, Stahl’s numbers would have made him a solid candidate of the Hall of Fame if he had played a few more seasons, like teammates and Hall of Famers Collins and Cy Young.