Win Mercer was a solid pitcher who spent most of his career on some terrible teams. On this day in 1903, the Detroit Tigers pitcher, and recently named player/manager, committed suicide.
Win Mercer was a better player than his career numbers would have indicated. He only had a 132-164 record, but he also routinely played on teams that finished below .500. In his nine year Major League career, he only had two winning seasons, despite routinely having a decent ERA. Mercer also made his mark as a hitter, posting a career .285/.344/.345 batting line while spending time at every position aside from catcher.
He was also a very popular figure with the ladies. Teams would have Mercer pitch on Ladies’ Days, as he was considered handsome and his piercing eyes brought the women in through the gates. In fact, during one such day, a group of women stormed the field and attacked an umpire when Mercer was ejected from a game.
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Mercer was also respected by his teammates. In fact, after spending the 1902 season with the Detroit Tigers, he was selected to be their player/manager for the upcoming 1903 campaign. He was coming off one of his best seasons in the Majors, posting a 15-18 record, but with a career best 3.04 ERA and a 1.285 WHiP. At 28 years old, his best days appeared to be ahead of him, although he was a nine year veteran.
However, he would not play another game in the Majors. After being part of a barnstorming tour, Mercer checked in to the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco. There, he killed himself by inhaling illuminating gas, his body found with a jacket and waistcoat covering his head, and a hose running from the gas jet to his mouth. He left a note that simply said “Tell Mr. Van Horn of the Langham Hotel that Winnie Mercer has taken his life.”
His suicide has never fully been explained. He was known as a ladies man himself, and speculation began that he killed himself over a failed relationship. Gambling debts were also rumored, but details of his finances showed that he did not owe any money. Likewise, reports of a suicide note warning of the evils of women and gambling were unfounded.
While it is difficult to speculate what drove Mercer to that decision, medical issues may have been a factor. Mercer had pulmonary issues, which treatment had not helped, causing him to become depressed. More than anything else, those medical problems could have been what drove Mercer to such a decision.
Win Mercer was a solid pitcher, respected by his teammates and loved by the fans, particularly the ladies. But on this day in 1903, for whatever reason, the Detroit Tigers player/manager took his own life.