Braves History: Tony Boeckel First MLBer Killed in Auto Accident

Automobiles were beginning to increase in popularity in the 1920’s, as more and more people could afford a vehicle. On this day in 1924, Braves third baseman Tony Boeckel became the first active Major Leaguer to be killed in a car accident.

It was the Roaring 20’s. The stock market was rising seemingly without limit, and people were doing much better than they had in decades. With more disposable income, they were able to afford luxuries that had previously been outside of their reach, including the automobile. With Henry Ford’s Model T, virtually anyone could afford a car in those days.

As an unfortunate consequence, with more automobiles on the roads, car accidents became more common. And, of those accidents, some would prove fatal. However, until this day in 1924, no active Major League player had been killed in an automobile accident. That changed when Boston Braves third baseman Tony Boeckel was killed.

Prior to Boeckel’s accident, two other players had been killed. Former Major Leaguer Heinie Reitz was killed in an accident, and Art Allison was struck when trying to cross a street in a snowstorm. However, Boeckel holds the distinction as the first current player to be killed in such a way.

Boeckel had hit another truck, causing damage to both vehicles. As he exited his car, he was struck by another automobile. This vehicle was driven by theatre magnate Bob Albright, with Yankees outfielder Bob Muesel as a passenger. While Boeckel was taken to a hospital, where he died the next day, Muesel was able to escape injury.

This was a tremendous blow to the Braves offense. He had been one of their better hitters over the past few years, producing a .298/.357/.405 batting line with 32 doubles n 1923. Boeckel was also a solid defensive player, despite leading the league in errors in his final three years. He twice led the league in putouts, and was in the top four in assists four times.

His death not only impacted the Braves on the field, but off the field as well. Team secretary Edwin L. Riley called his passing a “personal loss,” and Boeckel was also close friends with Braves President Christy Mathewson. The team wore black armbands in his honor that year, and a bronze plaque honoring Boeckel was dedicated at Braves Field.

Tragedy strikes in every walk of life at unexpected moments. That happened on this day when Braves third baseman Tony Boeckel was killed in an automobile accident.

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