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1940s / Willard Hershberger - Baseball Suicide
The only active major league baseball player to commit suicide during a season was Cincinnati Reds' catcher Willard Hershberger. The 30-year-old Hershberger was in his third season as a backup catcher for the Reds. Often moody, Hershberger was a loner who was extremely critical of his own play. When regular Reds' catcher Ernie Lombardi was injured during the 1940 season, Hershberger took over, batting a very respectable .309 and playing well defensively. On July 31, though, the Reds blew a late lead against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. Hershberger blamed himself for the loss and became sullen. The Reds then travelled to Boston where they lost both games of a doubleheader to a weak Boston Bees team on August 2. Afterwards, Hershberger met with Reds' manager Bill McKechnie to discuss personal problems. The next day, when Hershberger failed to appear at the ballpark, a search of his Boston hotel room found Hershberger dead in a pool of his own blood. He had slit his wrists with a razor. (There was a history of suicide in the family: Hershberger's father had killed himself in 1926.) Manager McKechnie never elaborated on the personal issues he had discussed with his troubled catcher.