At one point, Hershberger said: "My father killed himself, and I'm gonna do it too. I was gonna kill myself this morning when we got off the train. I went to the drugstore and bought a big bottle of iodine. I was gonna drink that, but then I thought there were better ways to do it." He told McKechnie that he alone was responsible for the recent losses. McKechnie tried to console and reassure him. Hershberger said that he bore no animosity toward any of the players and that none of this was their fault. The conversation ranged far afield. The Luftwaffe had begun the air war over Britain, and several times Hershberger referred to "that son of a bitch Hitler." At 9 p.m., the two men went to dinner. At around midnight, thinking he had talked Hershberger out of any notions of suicide, McKechnie left him at his room.
"I'm all right now, Bill," the catcher told his manager. "I'll be in there with my old pep tomorrow."
Later that night, Hershberger's road roommate, Baker, returned to find their hotel room dark. He called Willard's name. No answer. He flicked on the light. Hershberger was sitting in the bathroom. "What are you doing, Hershie?" Baker asked.
"Just smoking a cigarette, Bill."
On the floor lay a coil of wire that Riggs had given Hershberger to use as a radio antenna. It had been on the dresser earlier that night. Later Baker saw that Hershberger, relaxed at last, got his first full night's sleep in many weeks. Hershberger knew what he was going to do.
The following afternoon, after watching his teammates leave the hotel, he went upstairs, shaved, set out the towels and, facing himself in the bathroom mirror, felt for the jugular. He found it only after hacking around clumsily with the blade. Once the the vein was open, he turned toward the tub, knelt over its rim and bled to death.
Between games of the doubleheader, McKechnie, realizing that Hershberger had not arrived at the park, asked the catcher's friend Dan Cohen, a visiting Cincinnati shoe-store owner who was to have dinner with Hershberger that night, to check on him at the hotel. The door to Hershberger's room was locked, and no one answered. Cohen finally prevailed on a maid to let him in. The room was empty, neat as a watch, and Cohen was about to leave when he decided to peek into the bathroom. Hershberger was leaning over the tub, half in and half out. Cohen raced back to the ballpark. The second game was in the fourth inning. "When I saw Dan Cohen running down to the bench during the second game," said Riggs, "I knew that something terrible had happened to Hershberger. Goose pimples broke out all over me, and the fellows told me I turned as white as a sheet."
On his way out of the dugout, McKechnie told coach Hank Gowdy what had happened and, putting Gowdy in charge of the team, asked him not to tell the players until after the game was over. The Reds lost the nightcap, 5-2, and Craft recalls walking into the clubhouse and hearing Gowdy call the team together.
"All right, now be quiet," the coach said. "I want to tell you something. Willard Hershberger has just destroyed himself."
Craft dropped his head, too stunned to speak. "What?" he thought. "Hershie what?"