William “Bad Bill” Eagan was just 35-years-old when he died from tuberculosis in 1905, but many people probably didn’t believe it when the news was first reported. The hard-living Eagan’s demise had been predicted and reported several times. In 1901, the year after his professional career ended, The Fort Wayne Sentinel said:
“’Bad Bill’ Eagan who died two or three times last year, is running a poker room in Detroit. Eagan dies on the average of three times a year and is about due for the first of this year’s series. Eagan captained and played first base for Youngstown before his second demise last season.”
In 1899 Connie Mack told The Philadelphia North American:
“Eagan would be one of the best second basemen in the business if he would keep in condition.”
Eagan quickly wore out his welcome during all three of his brief stints in the big leagues. The first, with the St. Louis Browns in the American Association in 1891, ended, according to The Syracuse Standard after an incident with team owner Chris von der Ahe:
“(Eagan) was a jolly fellow and not afraid of discipline. The Browns got on a train at St. Louis to come East…von der Ahe’s nasal organ was rather large and red for its age and ‘Bad Bill’ determined to have some sport.
“Walking up to his employer, he caught the nose between his fingers, and said: ‘Say, Chris, how much did it cost to color that?’
“The owner of the cerise nose was furious with rage. He released Eagan at once. The train was ninety miles east of St. Louis, and at von der Ahe’s order the conductor put the nose twirler off the train.”
“Anson was a quick thinker on the ball field, but once he released the best second baseman that ever wore a suit for thinking a little quicker than anybody else on the nine.
“The second baseman in question was “Bad Bill’ Eagan. Everybody who remembers ‘Bad Bill’ will admit his supremacy on the second bag. When the play we celebrate came up there was a base runner on second. Chicago was one run to the good, and it was in the last half of the ninth inning.
“(Bill) Dahlen was playing third base for Chicago. The man hit a sharp liner down to second. ‘Bad Bill’ started for it and at the same instant the man started for third base.
“The liner was a clipper and the ball struck ‘Bad Bill’s’ hands and bounded out. It struck the ground ten feet away, with ‘Bill’ right after it. Once he got his hands on it and without stopping to look where he was throwing. ‘Bill’ let the ball fly to third base.
“Most ball players after fumbling the ball would have tossed it to the pitcher or thrown it home if, after looking around, they saw that the base runner had started to try to score.
“In this case the base runner, after touching third, went on for twenty feet and then stopped for an instant to see what had become of the ball. He saw it coming straight as a die for third base, and went back there like a flash. But the ball beat him by ten feet. Unfortunately for the game, and also for “Bad Bill’ Dahlen had taken it for granted that Eagan would throw the ball to the home plate, and was not looking for it to be thrown to him. Consequently the ball went by him, going within four inches of his nose, and striking the grand stand far behind.
“The result was that both base runners got safely home before Dahlen recovered himself and the ball, and the game was lost to Chicago.
“Anson was furious and immediately after the game gave ‘Bad Bill’ his release for making that throw. As a matter of fact, it was the best possible play under the circumstances, and Dahlen, rather than “Bad Bill’ was to blame for it not coming out as planned. If ‘Dal’ had thought as quickly as ‘Bill’ the game might have been settled right then and there.”
Eagan received one more trial with a major league team in 1898. He started the season on the bench for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but was given the opportunity to start when regular second baseman Dick Padden left the team over a dispute with Manager Bill Watkins in May.
Eagan hit .328, but committed 10 errors, in 19 games at Pittsburgh. He was sold to Louisville Colonels on June 5. The Louisville Courier-Journal said:
“He is a clever fielder, a fair batsman, extremely aggressive and absolutely fearless (and will) certainly strengthen the team in one of its weakest spots.”
But Eagan never appeared in a game for Colonels. The following day The Courier-Journal said the deal was off, and Manager Fred Clarke would only say, via telegram:
“Called deal for Eagan off for good reasons.”
The Colonels passed on Eagan despite being a team badly in need of a regular second baseman—Clarke tried nine different men at there during the season, and his primary second baseman, Heine Smith hit .190 and committed 16 errors in 26 games.
Eagan finished the 1898 season with the Eastern League’s Syracuse Stars, where he had played from 1894 to 1897. He finished the year of 1898 in jail in his native Camden New Jersey.
That story Wednesday