Bad Bill Eagan


WILLIAM "BAD BILL" EAGAN was one of the premier amateur ballplayers in Camden during the mid-1880s. He turned professional in 1887, and played briefly for three different major league teams. A superb defensive second baseman and no slouch at the plate, Eagan had a terrible problem with alcohol which completely derailed his career and for intents and purposes destroyed his life.

The combination of Eagan's talent on the field and his behavior.... which ranged at various times from erratic to atrocious... made him great newspaper copy and the course of his life once he turned professional has been fairly well documented. There are two excellent on-line articles on Bill Eagan, one from SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research, the other, a two-part effort, at Baseball History Daily, and his major league and minor league statistics are easily found on the Internet. What has not been much documented at all is Eagan's early years and family background. As best can be determined, no one to date has ever done any genealogical research on him, which is not surprising, as he was the only one of his six siblings to reach majority and he himself appears to have died childless. A look into his background is quite revealing, and perhaps in some ways explains his behavior.

By cross-checking data available at www.ancestry.com, specifically Census records, City Directories, birth, death and church records one finds that William Eagan was the son of Patrick Eagan and his wife Margaret, both Irish-born residents of Camden. In a time where all records were handwritten and spelling a far from exact science, the Eagans in Camden are found as Egans, Agans, Eagins, and Agins. William is recorded as being born or christened to Patrick and Margaret on January 15, 1866 and on August 14, 1868. Baseball records give a date of June 1, 1869. This date may possibly have been garnered from his obituary, or simply was a best guess on the part of the baseball community of Denver, Colorado where he died of tuberculosis, alone and penniless, on February 13, 1905.

Bill Eagan's childhood was no laughing matter. His father, PPatrick Eagan, was a drunk and a serial wife-beater, and when the wife wasn't at hand Patrick would find someone else to assault. Newspaper articles on-line, which represent a small fraction of what newspaper accounts there were at the time, give account of his escapades and imprisonments, and there were many if them, over a period beginning in 1861 and ending in 1902. The 1902 article tells of his escape from the Camden County Lunatic Asylum, which was located at the Lakeland complex in Gloucester Township, and describe with the sentence "Eagan is known s a dangerous man". Margaret Eagan, though reportedly much beloved by her son, appears to have been something of a piece of work herself. When the 1880 Census was taken, Patrick was locked up in the Camden County jail once again on one Census sheet, while Margaret had a man named Samuel living with her under the name of Eagan. While Patrick was serving a two-year sentence in a New Jersey state prison for assault, she was beaten up in March of 1891 by a John Tom McCann. The 1870 Census shows William Eagan with brothers John, Edward, and a sister Mary. By 1880 John was no longer living at home, and both Edward and Mary were dead. The 1880 Census shows three children in the household, William and sisters Annie, 8 and Mary, 6.
The 1900 Census shows Patrick Eagan as an inmate at the Camden County Insane Asylum, and Margaret living alone, and that of her six children, 5 were no longer alive. 

Bill Eagan got into a few scrapes with the law, but he found some refuge during his youth playing baseball. Growing up at South 2nd and Mickle Streets (Directories and news accounts show the Eagans there from the 1860s through the 1900s), he became friends with William J. "Kid" Gleason. Eagan and Gleason were two of the best young ballplayers in Camden in the mid-1880s. Both turned professional, appearing together for the Scranton Miners in the International Association league in 1887. Gleason went on to a long careers as a star player and pennant winning manager. Bill Eagan went from being known as "Billy" Eagan in the newspapers to being known as "Bad Bill".  

Bill Eagan returned to organized baseball in 1889 and played two seasons at Harrisburg. In 1891 he went to the major leagues, played 83 games at second base for the St. Louis Browns of the American Association before being kicked off of the team after alienating owner Chris Von der Ahe. Eagan's drinking was a major factor in his being cut. Eagan went to Albany of the Eastern League for the 1892 and 1893 seasons, and was again given an opportunity to play at the major league level, with the Chicago Colts of the National League, managed by Adrian "Cap" Anson in September of 1893. He lasted six games with the Colts, although it is unclear if he was let go because of his play or because of his behavior. Bill Eagan, full into his Bad Bill persona, next went to the Eastern League's Syracuse club, where he lasted for five years... one of which, 1897, he was forced to sit out after being suspended. In May of 1898 he was given another shot at the majors with Pittsburgh Pirates, but was cut after showing up to a road game in Philadelphia "unfit to play through over-indulgence" after a night of drinking in Camden. Bad Bill Eagan returned to Syracuse, played 24 games, then quit the team when forced to take a pay cut. He returned to Camden and took a job working in saloon, not the best place to work for an alcoholic.

By now Bill Eagan's life was completely off the rails. In October he procured a pistol and declared his intention to shoot his wife and kill himself. He fired one shot at his wife, which missed, and would have shot policeman William Schregler, who was trying to subdue him, if his gun arm had not been knocked away. Eagan was arrested and sat in Camden County Jail until March of 1899,when he was let go with the condition that he leave New Jersey. He was signed by Detroit of the Western League, and lasted three months before his behavior caused his release. In 1900 Bad Bill Eagan played briefly for the Youngstown Little Giants of the International League. He appeared in 26 games before his behavior caught up with him. He never played another game in organized baseball.

Late in August of 1900 the Indianapolis News reported that Eagan was picked up on the streets of Detroit "insane. He was removed to the emergency hospital, where he became violent and it took a number of men to overpower him and take him to the station and confine him in a padded cell. Drink caused Eagan’s downfall. Sober he was a hard working ambitious ball player; if a drink or two were given to him he became a dangerous maniac.”

Bill Eagan was released after several days and tended bar in Detroit for a few years. By April of 1904, he had contracted tuberculosis and was sent to a sanitarium in Denver, Colorado. On February 13, 1905 Bill Egan died alone and in poverty in Denver. It was thought that he was survived by his mother in Camden, and an effort was made to raise enough money to send his body home. This effort apparently came up short, and Bad Bill Eagan was buried in Denver. His mother still appeared in Camden City Directories at 204 Mickle Street as late as 1908. His father had escaped from the Camden County Insane Asylum at Lakeland in 1902. As of this writing his fate is undetermined.


Bad Bill Eagan's Major League Statistics
(Age reflects what I believe was the birthday estimated when he died in Colorado - PMC)

Bill Eagan Hitting Stats

G AB R H 2B 3B HR GRSL RBI BB IBB SO SH SF HBP GIDP AVG OBP SLG
1891 22 Browns 83 302 49 65 11 4 4 0 43 44 - 54 - - 3 - .215 .321 .318
1893 24 Colts 6 19 3 5 0 0 0 0 2 5 - 5 - - 0 - .263 .417 .263
1898 29 Pirates 19 61 14 20 2 3 0 0 5 8 - - 1 - 6 - .328 .453 .459
G AB R H 2B 3B HR GRSL RBI BB IBB SO SH SF HBP GIDP AVG OBP SLG
3 Years 108 382 66 90 13 7 4 0 50 57 - 59 1 - 9 - .236 .348 .338

Bill Eagan Fielding Stats

POS G GS OUTS TC TC/G CH PO A E DP PB CASB CACS FLD% RF
1891 Browns 2B 83 - - 490 5.9 455 177 278 35 29 n/a n/a n/a .929 0.00
1893 Colts 2B 6 - - 34 5.7 31 12 19 3 4 n/a n/a n/a .912 0.00
1898 Pirates 2B 17 - - 116 6.8 106 46 60 10 10 n/a n/a n/a .914 0.00
POS G GS OUTS TC TC/G CH PO A E DP PB CASB CACS FLD% RF
2B Totals 106 0 0 640 6.0 592 235 357 48 43 n/a n/a n/a .925 0.00
3 Years 106 - - 640 6.0 592 235 357 48 43 n/a n/a n/a .925 0.00

Bill Eagan Miscellaneous Stats

SB CS SB% PH PR DH AB/HR AB/K AB/RBI K/BB K/9 BB/9
1891 Browns 21 - - 0 0 n/a 75.5 5.6 7.0 - - -
1893 Colts 4 - - 0 0 n/a 0.0 3.8 9.5 - - -
1898 Pirates 1 - - 0 0 n/a 0.0 0.0 12.2 - - -
SB CS SB% PH PR DH AB/HR AB/K AB/RBI K/BB K/9 BB/9
3 Years 26 - - 0 0 n/a 95.5 6.5 7.6 - - -

Bad Bill Eagan's Major League Statistics
(Age reflects what I believe was the birthday estimated when he died in Colorado -
PMC)

Minors Batting

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
1887 18 Scranton INTA N/A
1889 20 Harrisburg MIDS N/A
1890 21 -3.9 2 Teams 2 Lgs N/A 109 448 116 140 19 14 4 74 .313 .444 199 4
1890 21 -2.8 Harrisburg EISL N/A 62 267 79 86 9 8 4 37 .322 .461 123
1890 21 -5.4 Harrisburg ATLA N/A 47 181 37 54 10 6 0 37 .298 .420 76 4
1892 23 -5.5 Albany EL N/A 97 375 62 98 13 6 2 50 .261 .344 129 34
1893 24 -3.7 Albany EL N/A 115 457 140 152 23 9 5 75 .333 .455 208
1894 25 -3.2 Syracuse EL N/A 111 435 97 129 16 9 1 30 .297 .382 166
1895 26 -1.6 Syracuse EL A 113 437 92 132 16 2 0 43 .302 .348 152
1896 27 Syracuse EL A
1897 28 0.5 Syracuse EL A 135 493 128 151 29 6 1 50 .306 .396 195
1898 29 1.2 Syracuse EL A 24 88 15 20 2 1 0 4 .227 .273 24 0
1899 30 Detroit WL A
1900 31 4.5 Youngstown/Marion ISLG B 26
12 Seasons 730 2771 2733 650 822 118 47 13 326 .301 .301 .393 .693 1073 38
N/A (6 seasons) N/A 432 1753 1715 415 519 71 38 12 229 .303 .303 .409 .712 702 38
B (1 season) B 26
A (5 seasons) A 272 1018 1018 235 303 47 9 1 97 .298 .298 .364 .662 371 0

Minors Pitching

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
1890 21 -3.0 Harrisburg ATLA N/A 0 1 .000 2 1 1 0
1892 23 -2.5 Albany EL N/A 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 1.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.0 0.0 0.0
1894 25 -0.9 Syracuse EL N/A 1
3 Seasons 0 1 .000 0.00 4 1 1 0 1.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.0 0.0 0.0

Minors Fielding

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G CG Ch PO A E DP Fld% RF/G lgCS% PO
1890 21 2 Teams 2 Lgs N/A 2B 108 0.00
1890 21 Harrisburg ATLA N/A 2B 46 0.00
1890 21 Harrisburg ATLA N/A P 2 0.00
1890 21 Harrisburg EISL N/A 2B 62 0.00
1893 24 Albany EL N/A 2B 115 0.00
1894 25 Syracuse EL N/A 2B 111 0.00
1894 25 Syracuse EL N/A P 1 0.00
1895 26 Syracuse EL A 2B 113 0.00
1898 29 Syracuse EL A 2B 24 0.00
1900 31 Youngstown/Marion ISLG B 2B 26 0.00
6 Seasons 500 0.00
2B (6 seasons) 2B 497 0.00
P (2 seasons) P 3 0.00

Minors Fielding

 


Philadelphia Inquirer - October 9, 1876

Randal E. Morgan - John H. Jones - Bill Eagan - Federal street
Daniel Flynn - Charles Godfrey - John Guest


Philadelphia Inquirer - June 11, 1884
 

Philadelphia Inquirer - September 22, 1889

James M. Cassiday - Harry Bowers - William Getty - Michael Fleming - Bill Eagan


 



Philadelphia Inquirer
July 26, 1890

 

 

 

 

 

 



 



Philadelphia Inquirer
April 12, 1892

Ike Toy - Bill Eagan

 


Philadelphia Inquirer - February 10, 1893

Charlie Toy - Ike Toy - Bill Eagan - Charley Matthews
Jerry Darragh - Potts - Sprogel - McCouch
Daly - Sweeney - Foulkrod - Flannery - Stephenson


 

 

Philadelphia Inquirer
September 12, 1893

Charles Alcott - Charley Matthews - Bill Eagan

 


Philadelphia Inquirer - April 17, 1894
Kid GleasonChris Von der Ahe - Billy Eagan - Red Armstrong
Charlie Snyder - Joe Jones -
Ike Toy - Zeke Moore - Charley Matthews
"Ned" O'Neill - "Trickey" O'Neill

 

 

Philadelphia Inquirer
May 23, 1898

 

 

 

...continued...

Philadelphia Inquirer - October 4, 1898
...continued...
Bill Eagan - William Schregler - Joseph Nowrey - West Street - Charles Riceman - Mathilda J. Bray

Philadelphia Inquirer - October 13, 1898

Philadelphia Inquirer - March 28, 1899

Philadelphia Inquirer - June 19, 1899

Rockford Republic - May 23, 1900

Rockford Republic - May 23, 1900

Denver Post - August 13, 1902

Rockford Republic - August 16, 1902

Worcester Daily Spy - October 3, 1903

Wilkes-Barre Times - April 22, 1904

Boston Journal - April 29, 1904

Denver
Rocky Mountain News
February 14, 1905

 


Hornell Evening Tribune
Hornell, New York
February 18, 1905

 


Hornell Evening Tribune - Hornell, New York - February 22, 1905
...continued...
Bill Eagan - George Stallings

Pawtucket Times
Pawtucket, Rhode Island
February 28, 1905

 


Denver Post
March 18, 1905

 


Denver Rocky Mountain News - March 19, 1905

RETURN TO CAMDEN'S INTERESTING PEOPLE PAGE

RETURN TO DVRBS.COM HOME PAGE