November 8, 1876|
|Died: December 1, 1927
Kansas City, Missouri
|April 30, 1901, for the Cleveland Blues|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 10, 1907, for the New York Giants|
|Runs batted in||62|
Daniel Charles Shay (born Daniel Shea,[note 1] November 8, 1876 – December 1, 1927) was a professional baseball player. He played all or part of four seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), for the Cleveland Blues in 1901, the St. Louis Cardinals from 1904 to 1905, and the New York Giants in 1907, primarily as a shortstop. Even during his playing days, Shay owned a cigar shop, several race horses and a minor league baseball team. One of Shay's fingers had to be amputated after a 1905 injury. His playing career made a brief comeback two seasons later.
After retiring as a player, Shay served as a manager in minor league baseball. By 1917, Shay was managing the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association. On May 3, 1917, Shay shot a black waiter at a hotel cafe in an argument stemming from a request for sugar; he claimed self-defense and was acquitted of murder charges. In subsequent media coverage, the verdict was criticized as an injustice. Shay worked as a scout in his last role in baseball. Late in his life, he suffered a stroke and lost the use of his right arm and hand. Ten years after he was acquitted in the murder trial, he was found dead in a hotel room with a gunshot wound to the head. Authorities could not definitively rule out either suicide or murder.
Early life and career
Shay was born in Springfield, Ohio, on November 8, 1876 to Irish immigrants. Around the time of Shay's birth, Springfield was a town characterized by tense race relations. Large numbers of black settlers arrived in the city from Kentucky in the wake of the Civil War. Black residents soon outnumbered whites, and they competed for jobs with working class white citizens like Shay's parents. Schools were integrated in Springfield when Shay was nine years old. He left Springfield by 1895 to begin his career in minor league baseball.
Shay's first recorded minor league appearances came in 1897 with three teams in the Interstate League and the Ohio-West Virginia League. Statistics are sparse until 1899, when he hit for a .288 batting average in 100 total games for four minor league teams. While playing minor league baseball for the 1900 Youngstown Little Giants, Shay was fined for leaving the team and for using improper language with the team's manager.
Shay made a brief appearance in the major leagues with the Cleveland Blues in 1901. During the 1902 season, he hit a combined .239 in 167 minor league games. He was arrested in June 1902 after leaving the St. Paul Saints for another team in San Francisco. He was charged with running up an unpaid bill with St. Paul; he was assessed a $25 fine and agreed to repay $138. Shay played in 193 games for the 1903 San Francisco Seals, registering 721 at-bats and a .243 batting average.
In late 1903, a baseball column suggested that the Detroit Tigers were interested in Shay, but he was said to be happy playing in California. During Shay's tenure in San Francisco, he got married. Shay went to spring training with the St. Louis Cardinals before the 1904 season. He impressed the team, prompting speculation that shortstop Dave Brain would move to third base and third baseman Jimmy Burke would serve as a utility infielder. Shay played 99 games for the Cardinals in 1904.
Shay sustained an injury to his pinky finger during the 1905 season. The finger did not heal properly and it required amputation. He sat out of major league baseball in 1906, refusing to play in St. Louis. Shay was a successful businessman during his early career; he owned a cigar shop in Stockton, California, purchased an outlaw baseball team and owned several race horses. As Shay prepared to return to baseball after a year away, an article in The Pittsburgh Press said, "There have been many ball players who have quit the game and became wealthy on the turf, but Shay is the only specimen living who was wealthy on the turf and quit the game to play professional baseball."
In December 1906, Shay announced that he was excited about the possibility of playing for the New York Giants. He was making plans to leave the tobacco business so that he could be available to join the team for 1907. Giants manager John McGraw secured Shay's release from St. Louis in January 1907, but he was unable to sign Shay during initial negotiations with him. Shay signed with the team the next month. Reporting on the signing, The New York Times described Shay as "a trustworthy batsman, and a good fielder... a splendid baserunner, cool at all times, and a player of considerable judgment." The article said that Shay was one of three candidates to play second base. He appeared in 35 games for the Giants that season.
In January 1908, newspaper reports held that Shay would not return to the Giants and that McGraw would meet with him to begin arranging a trade that would send him to another team. That year he played for the Stockton Millers of the California League, an independent minor league. Stockton won the 1908 league championship. During the 1909 season, he became a player-manager for the Kansas City Blues of the American Association.
While Shay was managing at Kansas City in early 1910, American Association president Thomas Chivington imposed new conduct rules for the league. The new system emphasized fines for players and managers rather than simply ejecting them when they behaved poorly. After Shay was ejected from three games in a four-game span, a Minnesota newspaper article questioned whether his behavior would be subject to additional disciplinary action. The next month, Shay released 48-year-old Jake Beckley, prompting his retirement after one of the longest careers in professional baseball history. The first baseman had tried to make the Kansas City team after 20 years in the National League.
In the spring of 1911, Shay was riding in a taxi that collided with a dray and he sustained severe cuts to his face. Shay was suspended indefinitely in late June 1911 after a fight with an umpire. In October 1911, Shay abruptly resigned as the manager in Kansas City. He declined to say what prompted his resignation and said that he might not be permanently finished with baseball, but he said that he was finished with the Kansas City club. When asked about the possibility of a major league managing job, Shay responded, "There is nothing to be said now, but there may be something later."
When the Columbian Baseball League was forming in 1912, The New York Times named Shay as one of two candidates to manage the league's Kansas City team. The president of the new league, John T. Powers, said that the league would not serve as a third major league, but he noted that many players were eager to sign with the league after their contracts had expired in 1911. The league never materialized. One of its main investors, brewer Otto Stifel, withdrew his support of the league before play began.
Shay managed the 1913 Helena Senators in a minor league known as the Union Association. His wife was killed in a car accident in 1914, and their two children were sent to live with relatives. Shay sat out of baseball that year. In 1915, Kansas City manager Bill Armour was promoted to vice president, and the team rehired Shay as its manager. Late in the 1916 season, Shay was dismissed as manager. He had not been on the bench recently, and his absence was attributed to poor health. Art Phelan had been managing the team on an interim basis and was named as Shay's replacement for the rest of the season.
Shay was signed to manage the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association in 1917. His contract included a clause prohibiting him from drinking alcohol, though he was still known to visit bars and order Dubonnet, a liquor that Shay said was "soft as a milk shake." Shay's predecessor in Milwaukee, Harry "Pep" Clark, resigned in the middle of the 1916 season. Clark had led the team to league championships in 1913 and 1914, but he experienced difficulty by the next year when the club's ownership refused to sign new players to replace aging veterans.
Shooting and trial
On May 3, 1917, the Brewers traveled to Indianapolis and defeated the team there to improve their win-loss record to 7–8. Shay visited a local tavern that night and had some drinks. The tavern owner took Shay to a beauty parlor and introduced him to its owner, Gertrude Anderson. Anderson gave Shay a manicure and accompanied him to the Hotel English. Shay complained to busboy Eugene Jones about the placement of sugar bowls at his table. Clarence Euell, a black waiter at the cafe, came to address Shay's concern. An argument ensued during which Shay pulled out a gun and shot Euell in the abdomen. Euell wrestled Shay to the ground, pressing his foot down on Shay's head.
Euell was taken to a hospital and died about an hour after the shooting. He was never able to formally identify Shay as the shooter. When Shay was arrested in his hotel room that night, police officers said that he appeared to be intoxicated. He refused to make any statements. He was held without bail and charged with second-degree murder. A conviction carried the possibility of life imprisonment. A few days after the shooting, American Association owners were collecting funds to assist in Shay's criminal defense. As the case was about to go to trial, one of the attorneys became ill, so the proceedings were delayed for several weeks. The trial was reset for November 12, 1917.
At a coroner's inquest, several witnesses had testified that they saw Shay shoot Euell after an argument over a sugar bowl. Anderson said that she did not see much after the initial verbal exchange because she fled the dining area as soon as the argument escalated. At trial, Anderson said that Shay had two drinks at the cafe. She said that Euell had been staring at her, was rude to them and lunged toward Shay before the shooting. The cafe's manager said that Euell had not been rude to Shay. Two waiters denied that Euell had lunged at Shay. A cashier testified that when Shay asked for sugar, Euell pointed out that there was already some on his table, but he brought two more bowls. She said that Shay called Euell "smarty" and confronted Euell with the gun while the waiter was walking away. Shay denied being drunk and said that Euell hit him and threatened to kill him before the shooting.
At 11 p.m. on November 21, the case was sent to the jury. At 9:20 a.m. the next day, a not guilty verdict was announced. There was applause in the courtroom when Shay was cleared. An editorial in the local newspaper denounced the verdict the next day. Regarding Shay's self-defense assertion, the editorial said, "The only testimony that even tends to sustain that theory was his own." Black newspapers also criticized the outcome of the case.
From the time of Shay's arrest through the end of the 1918 season, the Brewers went through four more managers. Clark returned to the team in 1922, spending several more years as manager. Shay ended his baseball career as a scout for Columbus of the American Association.
Shay was found dead in a Kansas City hotel room on December 1, 1927. He was found with a gunshot wound to the head. Police officials initially said that the manner of death could have been either suicide or murder. Shay stayed in his room on the day that he died. A porter went to check on him that evening and found him on the floor with a pistol a few inches from his right hand. When physicians examined Shay's body, they found that a bullet had entered the right ear and exited the back of the head. Shay had lost the use of his right arm and hand after a stroke. Police said that if Shay were holding the gun in his left hand, it would not have been easy for him to shoot himself in the right side of the head.
After his death, sportswriter Manning Vaughan described Shay as a "fire eating, umpire hating player and just as hard when he became a manager." He said that Shay was a "polished gentleman – with his friends. But he was everything else with people he did not like. He would fight at the least provocation, and as it was generally known he packed a gun the gentlemen involved never stuck around very long to argue."
- After Shay's death, several sources reported that he changed the spelling of his name from Shea to Shay after retiring from baseball, but newspaper accounts throughout his career indicate that he spelled the name Shay by the time his playing career began.
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