Suicide Among Professional Athletes

Red Stallcup was one of those tertiary players that drift in and out of Major League clubhouses. He got in four full seasons alongside a taste of a few more but ultimately didn’t pan out.

Look at the blacked-out bat knob in the picture. I like to imagine Stallcup played an early version of the infamous Billy Ripken prank. His offseason job as a basketball referee is interesting.

Stallcup is pictured above with the Cincinnati Reds. He would only play in 2 games with the team in ’52 and come to the plate only once. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals early in the season and would follow up the next year with a single trip to the plate. He amassed a relatively high number of plate appearances over his career given his batting skills. With defensive skill being his claim to a roster spot, it is interesting to note that his 1950 Bowman card is the only one of his career to feature him in the field.

Above: 1950 Bowman #116 featuring Red Stallcup

Stallcup shot himself in 1989, becoming the final entry in a Time Magazine story that traced the story of every person killed by a gun in one particular week. His death was preceded the month before with the suicide of 1950s Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Carlos Bernier. Two months later the world would read about the much darker suicide of California Angels pitcher/attempted murderer Donnie Moore.

Baseball Almanac maintains a list of baseball suicides, one that unfortunately needed to be updated just this past year with the death of Jeremy Giambi. There are a lot of names on that list and the likelihood of missing some players by omission is high. Still, the rate of suicide among professional athletes is well below that of the general population. A 2019 study1 shows this to be the case among NFL and MLB players with the latter exhibiting a lower propensity for taking their lives than football players.

1Nguyen VT, Zafonte RD, Chen JT, et al. Mortality Among Professional American-Style Football Players and Professional American Baseball Players. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(5):e194223. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.4223