January 18, 1904|
|Died: September 17, 1935
|April 12, 1932 for the New York Giants|
Last MLB appearance
|September 15, 1935 for the Brooklyn Dodgers|
|Runs batted in||114|
Leonard George "Len" Koenecke (January 18, 1904 in Baraboo, Wisconsin, USA – September 17, 1935 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada) was an American baseball player who played Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. He died of a blow to the head at hands of the pilot and a passenger of a plane he had seized control of.
Minor league career
Major League career
After several seasons with Indianapolis, Koenecke was signed to the New York Giants in December 1931 in a deal worth $75,000. Manager John McGraw predicted he would "be a bright star in the National League". He played just the one season with the Giants.
In 1933 while playing for the International League Buffalo Bisons, he hit .334 and drove in 100 RBIs while hitting 8 home runs. In 1934 Koenecke joined the Brooklyn Dodgers where in his first season he hit 14 home runs, 73 RBI and set a National League outfielding record fielding 0.994. His second season saw a decline in his onfield performance and his drinking became a problem to the point where he was cut during the middle of a road trip.
After being sent home from the road trip he caught a commercial flight for New York. During the flight he drank a quart of whiskey and became very drunk. After harassing other passengers and striking a stewardess, the pilot had to sit on him to restrain him as he was shackled to his seat. He was removed unconscious from the flight in Detroit. After sleeping on a chair in the airport he chartered a flight to Buffalo. While flying over Canada he had a disagreement with the pilot and a passenger and attempted to take control of the aircraft. In order to avoid a crash he was hit over the head by both the pilot (who had left his controls) and the other passenger with a fire extinguisher. After an emergency landing on a racetrack it was found that Koenecke had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The two pilots were charged with manslaughter but were found not guilty in a trial soon after.
- "Transport: Fight in Flight". Time. Time Inc. September 30, 1935. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
- "GIANTS WILL COUNT ON THREE ROOKIES FOR TITLE TEAM". The Milwaukee Sentinel. December 20, 1931. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
- "Sport: New Season". Time. Time Inc. March 28, 1932. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
- Robinson, James G. "Flashback Friday - The Fateful Fire Extinguisher". cbssports.com. CBS. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
- Maeder, Jay (April 7, 2003). "NO FURTHER OPPORTUNITY A tale of two ballplayers chapter 37". New York Daily News. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
- "FIGHT TO DEATH IN AIR CAUSES FLYERS' ARREST". Spokane Daily Chronicle. September 17, 1935. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
- Merron, Jeff (June 22, 2002). "Major leaguers who died in-season". ESPN.com. ESPN. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
- "DETROIT PILOT HAS NEW CLOSE CALL". Ludington Daily News. August 8, 1938. Retrieved 19 December 2010.