Losing your job can be a pretty devastating blow, and while it’s hard to blame anyone who wants to drown their sorrows with a drink (or five), it usually doesn’t end with them attempting to hijack an airplane before getting hit over the head with a fire extinguisher—unless you’re former MLB player Len Koenecke.
Most people would kill to have a chance to get paid to play baseball for a living, but guys in that line of work also have to deal with a ton of pressure the Average Joe will never really be able to grasp unless they found themselves in their shoes (or, considering the topic in question, cleats).
Every single professional athlete on the planet is waging a fairly unconscious and inevitably futile war against time, as every single one of them will eventually reach a point where they’re no longer able to perform at the level that’s expected to compete at the highest level of a sport.
Koenecke—who made his minor league debut in 1927—arguably reached that point in 1935, which is when the Brooklyn Dodgers parted ways with the 31-year-old outfielder who’d seen his performance decline during his second season with the franchise.
That led to the team opting to cut Koenecke toward the end of the season, and while there’s a chance he may have been able to bounce back and find a new home, he never got the opportunity to do so thanks to what transpired after he learned he’d been dropped from the roster.
Former MLB outfielder Len Koenecke ended his career (and his life) after attempting to hijack a plane
Koenecke was a Wisconsin native who made his Major League Baseball debut with the New York Giants in 1932, and after spending a year with the Buffalo Bison of the International League, he headed back to the MLB when he signed with the Dodgers ahead of the 1934 campaign.
The outfielder fared pretty well in his first season with Brooklyn, as he played in 123 games while recording a batting average of. 320, 14 home runs, 73 RBI, and a nearly spotless record in the field. However, he failed to match that success the following year; in the 100 games he played prior to his release, he batted .283 with just four HRs and 27 RBI.
That lackluster showing led to the Dodgers informing Koenecke he was no longer a member of the team while on the road in St. Louis, as Casey Stengel opted to replace him (and a couple of other guys) with minor leaguers to see how they’d fare as the Dodgers neared the end of a disappointing season.
Koenecke was given a ticket to get back to New York City (although the journey required him to switch planes in both Detroit and Chicago).
He ran into an issue on the flight between those two locations, as his decision to pound some whiskey and get into multiple altercations with fellow passengers (as well as a stewardess he struck at some point) led to him being restrained before he was essentially stranded in The Motor City after being barred from his subsequent flight to NYC.
However, he quickly hatched a plan that led to him chartering a private flight to Buffalo in the hopes of convincing the Buffaloes to give him another contract. He was assisted by William Mulqueeney, the pilot of the six-seater that was also home to Irwin Davis, a stunt parachutist who joined them for the trip.
Unfortunately, things once again took a turn for the worse once Koenecke soared into the air. After challenging Davis to a one-sided flight, he turned his attention to the cockpit and tried to wrestle the controls from Mulqueeney.
However, the pilot (a former lineman who’d played football at the University of Detroit) was able to fend him off before grabbing the fire extinguisher he used to repeatedly bash Koenecke in the head, which successfully defused the situation.
By that point, the plane was in Canadian airspace, and after searching for a suitable place to make an emergency landing, Mulqueeney touched down on a racetrack just outside of Toronto.
They were greeted by authorities who pronounced Koenecke dead at the scene (a coroner would eventually determine he’d succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage), and while Mulqueeney and Davis were initially charged with involuntary manslaughter, the allegations were dismissed after prosecutors determined they’d acted in self-defense.
That certainly escalated quickly.