The Most Shocking Deaths in MLB History

The baseball world was rocked by the recent news that Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died at the age of 27. The cause of death has yet to be revealed, but even after it is, it will do little to soothe the heartache of Skaggs’ teammates, family, and fans alike. On the night they honored Skaggs, the Angels’ pitchers threw a combined no-hitter.

With so many teams and players throughout the years, MLB has had its fair share of tragic ends to some of their players’ lives. Here are some of the most shocking deaths in MLB history. 

Tim Crews/Steve Olin

During 1993 spring training, three Cleveland Indians pitchers – Tim Crews, Steve Olin, and Bobby Ojeda – took a boating trip. That trip ended in tragedy, unfortunately, when an inebriated Crews crashed the boat into a pier. Ojeda would be the only survivor of the crash, pitching only 11 games after that.

Thurman Munson

During the 1970s, Thurman Munson was the New York Yankees catcher, captain, and spiritual leader. He was the 1970 AL Rookie of the Year, 1976 MVP, and helped lead the team to two World Series championships

Sadly, Munson perished in a plane crash during the 1979 season. Munson had acquired his pilot’s license the previous year to allow him to make frequent trips to his home in Ohio. His number 15 was retired by the Yankees and he was honored in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. 

Ray Chapman

On August 16th, 1920, the Cleveland Indians’ Ray Chapman crowded the plate against the New York Yankees submarine pitcher Carl Mays. Mays had a not-so-friendly reputation around the league and was known for throwing inside to intimidate batters.

Tragedy would strike that day when Mays would hit Chapman in the head with a pitch, crushing his skull. Chapman would die later that night. Many players around the league were outraged due to Mays’ reputation, but the pitcher would be wracked with guilt for years over the unintentional incident. 

Cory Lidle

During the 2006 offseason after he had been traded to the Yankees that summer, pitcher Cory Lidle was killed in a plane crash along with his flight instructor. The plane crashed into a New York City high-rise apartment.

The crash was particularly shocking due to its location: as it occurred many New Yorkers witnessing the event feared a terrorist attack as it had only been five years since September 11, 2001. 

Jose Fernandez

Jose Fernandez was the Miami Marlins’ ace in 2016. In September of that year, he died in a horrible boating accident off the coast of South Beach.

Toxicology reports later found alcohol and cocaine in Fernandez’s bloodstream. Fernandez had a promising career up until that point, winning 16 games that season after having collected the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Award and two All-Star appearances

Roberto Clemente

Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente got his 3000th hit during the 1971 season at the age of 38. Soon after that, he tragically perished in a plane crash while en route to deliver supplies to an earthquake-ravaged Managua.

Clemente made the trip due to his concern that the supplies were not getting into the hands of the people who needed it most, making his death even nobler. 

Darryl Kile 

On June 22, 2002, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile never showed up for the game that day against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. That’s because he had died in his sleep at his hotel at the age of 33.

Fans, players, and media were all stunned by the sudden and unexpected news. An autopsy later revealed coronary atherosclerosis as the cause of death