January 18, 1904|
|Died: September 17, 1935
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|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 the hands of the pilot and a passenger of a plane of which he had seized control.
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, playing for the International League Buffalo Bisons, he hit .334 and drove in 100 runs batted in with eight home runs. In 1934, Koenecke joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, where in his first season he hit 14 home runs, 73 RBIs and set a National League fielding record with a percentage of .994. His second season saw a decline in his onfield performance and his drinking became a problem to the point where he was cut on September 16, 1935, during the middle of a road trip after a game in Chicago.
After being sent home from the road trip, Koenecke caught a commercial flight for New York City. During the flight, he drank a quart of whiskey and became very drunk. After Koenecke had harassed other passengers and struck 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 Toronto in the hopes of rejoining the Bisons. 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, Koenecke was hit over the head with a fire extinguisher by both the pilot, who had left his controls, and the other passenger. After an emergency landing at Long Branch Racetrack in Toronto, it was found that Koenecke had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The two men were charged with manslaughter but were found not liable by a coroner's jury soon after.
Pop culture references
- "Transport: Fight in Flight". Time. Time Inc. September 30, 1935. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
- Sullivan, C. J. (29 March 2018). "Remembering the Brooklyn Dodger Who Hijacked a Plane". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
- "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.
- "Koenecke, Ball Player, Is Killed In Plane as He Attacks the Crew - Dodger Outfielder, Sent Home by Team, Is Hit Over Head by Pilot With Fire Extinguisher After 15-Minute Mid-Air Battle With Ship Out of Control Over Toronto". New York Times. September 17, 1935. p. 1. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
- "Airmen Cleared In Koenecke Death - Coroner's Jury Finds Pilot and Aide Struck Ball Player in 'Self-Defense' - Alcohol Found in Body - Analyst Reports Enough to Cause Violence - Fliers Tell of Struggle in the Plane". New York Times. Associated Press. September 20, 1935. p. 3. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
- "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.
- "Koenecke is Buried - Ball Teams Send Floral Pieces for Friendship, Wis., Rites". New York Times. 2. Associated Press. September 22, 1935. p. 1. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
- Archer Season 5 Episode 6 4:50