September 17, 2007

September 17 | Len Koenecke

January 18, 1904 - September 17, 1935: Age 31

Len Koenecke was a Major League Baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. Already in trouble with the team for his drinking, he got kicked off a commercial flight for being too inebriated. Needing to get to Buffalo, he chartered a plane for himself and a friend.

Koenecke sat up front with the pilot. At first he was quiet, but soon began to get restless and started nudging the pilot. The pilot sent him to sit in the back with his companion but, after a short time, he started poking the pilot from behind. When the companion tried to stop him, they got into a fight.

In the scuffle, the companion tried to hit Koenecke with a small fire extinguisher, which got dropped. Then Koenecke "made for" the pilot, who picked up the fire extinguisher in one hand while holding the controls with the other, hit Koenecke two or three times. "He kept on fighting so I hit him again." The struggle went on for 10 or 15 minutes, during which the plane was veering wildly. "Then I had to come to a decision. It was either a case of the three of us crashing or doing something to Koenecke. I watched my chance, grabbed the fire extinguisher and walloped him over the head."

By the time Koenecke had been "quieted" the pilot had no idea where they were. He steered toward the nearest open field, which happened to be a race track in Toronto, and made an emergency landing. Koenecke died of a brain hemorrhage.