The MLB player who died trying to hijack a plane

Although his playing days were not without their accomplishments, Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Len Koenecke is remembered only for his strange and violent death late in the 1935 season.

Len Koenecke is probably a player you’ve never heard of, but he’s about to become a player you’ll never forget. Koenecke was a promising player in the National League in the early 1930s. He bounced around a couple of teams before finally landing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1934. The fit seemed a natural fit as Koenecke flourished in his first season in Brooklyn. He posted a .320 average, 14 HR and even set the National League record for fielding percentage (.994) for one season.

However, Koenecke’s second season with the Dodgers did not go as smoothly. He developed a drinking problem that led to a decline in his performance on the field. Things got so bad that in the middle of a team road trip, Koenecke was cut from the Dodgers and sent home immediately. On the flight back to New York, Koenecke became unruly, harassing other passengers and even hitting a flight attendant. The pilot was forced to intervene and was finally able to restrain Koenecke in shackles. He then made a crash stop in Detroit to unload the uncontrollable ex-Dodger.

While in Detroit, Koenecke decided that he would rather go to Toronto than New York. A few hours later (for whatever reason) he was allowed to board a passenger plane en route to Canada’s largest city. Lo and behold, Koenecke returned to the same behavior, he began harassing a fellow passenger and the pilot again. This time he went a step further. Koenecke attempted to take control of the plane by force. The pilot fought back by hitting Koenecke in the head with a fire extinguisher, causing the brain hemorrhage that ultimately led to Len Koenecke’s death.

The forensic investigation explored what caused Koenecke’s irrational behavior, but ultimately remained undetermined. Regardless of the demons that possessed Len Koenecke that night, his passing abruptly ended a professional career that had seemed quite promising just a few months earlier.

Although his career was short, Len Koenecke had been a more than decent Major League Baseball player. In 265 games spread over three seasons, he posted an excellent .297 batting average, with 80 extra-base hits and 114 RBIs. His OBP (.383) and slugging percentage (.441) were also respectable. Unfortunately, these achievements have been overshadowed by the strange circumstances of his death.

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The MLB player who died trying to hijack a plane