Great Talent & Tragedy
Charles Sylvester Stahl was hired by the Boston National League team in 1897. He started out in right field and batted .354 during his rookie season. Stahl played four seasons with the Beaneaters, and then moved over to the American League team in 1901. The Boston Americans (Red Sox) won the first World Series tourney in 1903, and the American League Pennant in 1904. By 1906, the team had floundered, and Chick Stahl was named to become the player-manager of the Red Sox during the 1907 season. As a player, Chick Stahl was a great hitter and superb outfielder.
The following is an 1897 description of Chick Stahl written during his rookie season: "Right Fielder Charles Stahl was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., Jan. 10, 1873. He began his career as a pitcher for the Battle Creek Club of the Michigan League in 1894. The next season he joined the Roanoke Club of the Virginia League as a pitcher. Though winning a majority of games in that position he was called on one day to play in the outfield and his success was instantaneous and complete. He was considered one of the heaviest batters in the league and his ability attracted the attention of Manager Jack Rowe of the Buffalo Club of the Eastern League, who secured him for the season of 1896.
Here again his batting won recognition and he closed the year with an average of .328, [with] Sam Wise alone leading him. In 121 games Stahl made 135 runs, 27 doubles, 23 triples and 6 home runs; stole 28 bases and made 5 sacrifice hits. His fielding percentage was .953. His great work led Boston to purchase his release at the end of the season. The intention was to use him as a utility man, and during the early part of the present season he was on the bench most of the time. The release of Tucker and the placing of Tenney on first base gave Stahl a place on the regular team and he has played in right field since with remarkable success. He jumped into immediate favor with the public by his grand fielding and batting and he is generally regarded as the best fielding 'find' of the year. He is a quiet, but none the less enthusiastic player, whose heart and soul are in his team's success. He is good on the bases, a sure catch in the field and is well qualified in all-round playing. He is splendidly built, stands five feet ten inches and weighs about 160 pounds."
With the American League team, according to the January 20, 1906 Boston Globe, the players had to take a salary cut before the season started. Club President John I. Taylor also stated that rumors were being spread to cause friction between himself and player-manager Jimmy Collins that were unfounded and sensational. But Red Sox performance during 1906 was abysmal, and by early September Collins had been suspended as manager (New York Times, September 12, 1906). Chick Stahl was then made acting manager for the rest of the season. The Red Sox won only 49 games that year, and lost 105. Jimmy Collins presided over the 1903 World Series and 1904 American League pennant victories as Manager, but the team's performance plunged after that.
On December 4 , 1906 it was announced that Chick Stahl would be player-manager for 1907 after being acting Manager for part of the previous season (New York Times, December 5, 1906). Chick Stahl was described as a quiet person, and a mystery occurred during that Spring training which will probably never be solved. The following article in the March 29, 1907 New York Times describes what happened:
"CHICK" STAHL A SUICIDE
Late Boston Manager Takes Carbolic Acid at West Baden.
WEST BADEN, Ind., March 29. — Charles Sylvester Stahl, known to baseball "rooters" throughout the country as "Chick" Stahl, the centrefielder, and until two days ago the manager of the Boston American team, committed suicide in his room at the West Baden Springs Hotel by swallowing carbolic acid. He was dead when found. President Taylor of the club, who succeeded Stahl in the management of the team, immediately ordered the practice of the men stopped.
When Stahl arose to-day he was in his usual good spirits. He shared his room with his eldest friend, ex-manager "Jimmy" Collins, and when the time came for going to practice Stahl was not on hand. After waiting some time Collins when to the room, and Stahl told him he had just drank some carbolic acid. In a few minutes he was in terrible agony, and to some of the members of the team who Collins called to the room Stahl said:
"Boys, I couldn't help it; it drove me to it."
The players did not know what their comrade meant, but they did know he was worried about something, as they had taken away a bottle of carbolic acid from him only a few days ago while the team was at Louisville, KY.
Chick Stahl was only 34-years old when he died. The reason for his suicide is still a mystery. It is possible he suffered great depression due to the poor performance of the team or disappointment in himself. He may have felt great guilt for replacing his friend Jimmy Collins as manager. He was in his home state of Indiana, and maybe a tragic memory drove him to do it. The mystery may never solved. [A modern account asserts that Stahl was being blackmailed by a woman for fathering a child out of wedlock, which caused excessive stress and led to his suicide.]