This Day in Baseball History: January 19th, 1900

One of the worst moments in baseball history.

On January 19, 1900:

Marty Bergen, Boston’s catcher, killed his family and himself.

Marty Bergen was a catcher for the Boston Beaneaters and quickly built a reputation as an excellent defensive catcher. Jesse Burkett once noted that Bergen often threw out baserunners without moving his feet, just whipped it down to second. Offensively, he wasn’t great, but his .267 career batting average wasn’t terrible. Most believed him to be on the road to a great career.

That is until he began having serious mental issues. He slapped one teammate inexplicably at breakfast, and he began causing problems in the clubhouse. It got so bad that he believed someone was trying to poison him, and he refused to take medication for his condition because he feared the doctor had been hired by someone to kill him. Bergen would also simply leave the team in the middle of road trips without telling the anyone where he was going.

Things got worse in 1899. His son died suddenly in the off-season before the 1899 season. During the season, he would periodically ask the manager if he could leave the team, saying teammates would remind him of his son, but when the manager refused, he left anyway. Later in the season, he broke his hip, and doctors believed he may never play again. After the season, it is believed the team tried to trade Bergen, but he refused to play another season away from family.

On January 19, 1900, Bergen brutally murdered his family and then killed himself. The New York Times had an article on the murders and described the crime scene in quite a bit of detail. Bergen’s irrational behavior had been known to the press beforehand, but they, as the media did in that era, kept it out of the papers. It is now believed Bergen battled schizophrenia and manic depression. He was 28.

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