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New information surfaces in mystery of missing baseball player Jack Dalton

BaseballInterior PolicyPersonal Data CollectionDetroit Tigers

New information has surfaced about Tolbert Percy "Jack" Dalton, a one-time Catonsville resident who disappeared in 1948.

A researcher of baseball history has discovered the missing man's death certificate, which shows that Dalton, who once played major league ball, died in a Pittsburgh hospital of a heart ailment on Feb. 17, 1950.

Some accounts, including an article in the Catonsville Times in 2004, have said that Dalton was living in Catonsville when he vanished on July 4, 1948, but it is now evident he moved in 1947 to Emmitsburg, in western Maryland.

According to the Emmitsburg Area Historical Society, Dalton had lived there for a year, having taken a job as editor for the Emmitsburg Chronicle newspaper.

There are very few deceased major league baseball players for whom the time and place of their death is not known, but Dalton was one of them. Prior to the discovery of Dalton's death certificate, A small group of investigators belonging to the Society for American Baseball Research had been trying for decades to solve mystery of Dalton's disappearance.

Baseball researcher Al Quimby, of Tennessee, discovered the death certificate when the State of Pennsylvania recently opened access to death records prior to 1961. The records show that a Tolbert Dalton, age 64, died of a heart ailment at Allegheny General Hospital.

The death certificate also provided a previously unknown Social Security number, which led to confirmation of his date of birth and parents' names. The deceased was unquestionably the ballplayer Jack Dalton.

The certificate notes he was a single, white male who lived at 402 Penn Ave., in Pittsburgh ,and that he was buried Feb. 23, 1950, at Hollywood Cemetery (now Hollywood Memorial Park), in Pittsburgh.

Dalton was, in fact, not single. At the time of his death he still was legally married to Thelma Dalton. Using the Social Security Death Index, Quimby found that she died in March 1966 in Royersford, Montgomery County, Pa.

"I have no idea why Jack is 'single' on his death certificate, or whether she (Thelma Dalton) was ever aware of his death. Royersford and Pittsburgh are at opposite ends of Pennsylvania," Quimby said.

A right-handed outfielder, Dalton started out with a team in Des Moines, where he batted .308. His performance resulted in an invitation to join the Brooklyn Robins, a predecessor to the Dodgers, in 1910.

He went into a slump, however, and was shipped off to a team in Newark, N.J. But he made a comeback and played again for Brooklyn in 1914, then the Buffalo Blues in 1915 and the Detroit Tigers in 1916, a year in which he had only 11 at-bats. He played his final game as a pro on May 17, 1916.

The best year for the ballplayer, who went by the moniker "Demon Jack," was in 1914, when he had a batting average of .319.

His post-baseball career is sketchy, but over the years baseball researchers have found a few facts. Old directories indicate Dalton lived in Elkridge, Md., in 1930. A directory also shows him living in 1940 at 2 Prospect St., in Catonsville, although Catonsville currently has a Prospect Avenue, but not a Prospect Street. A directory from 1942 lists him as a clerk in theU.S. Army's Third Corps headquarters.

No record of a police investigation into his disappearance has ever been found.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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