People don’t associate sports with dying. It’s not like a player fields a ground ball to short, pulls out a shotgun and shoots the player running to first base to prevent the infield single. That type of stuff just doesn’t happen obviously.
Unfortunately, on this date, August 16th in 1920 tragedy struck. It was 102 years ago that Cleveland Indians player Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch that Carl Mays of the New York Yankees threw in the fifth inning of the contest at the Polo Grounds. He passed away that next morning.
Interestingly enough, Mays actually stayed in the game after throwing the pitch and wasn’t replaced until the 9th inning of the game. However, Cleveland did win by a score of 4-3.
Chapman was only 29 at the time of his passing. Gone way too soon.
Mays did later express regret for the outcome but stated that he did not feel any guilt because he had not hit Chapman on purpose.
Chapman started his career in 1912 with the Indians and played all the way through with the team until the tragedy in ’20. He had 17 home runs, 364 runs batted in and a .278 batting average. He was inducted into the team Hall of Fame.
The 1920 Indians finished the season with a record of 98-56 in first place of the American League. The team would go on the win the World Series by beating the Brooklyn Robins five games to two. A great way to honor their fallen teammate from earlier that season.
It was the first World Series win in team history and the first of only two times the Indians would win the World Series despite making it six times (1920, 1948, 1954, 1995, 1997, 2016)
Of course, the way the game is played today compared to back in 1920 is much different. There is obviously a reason players wear batting helmets when stepping in the box and the death of Chapman was a big eye-opener in regards to the safety of the players within the game of baseball. It also led to the banning of the “spitball” and making sure each baseball is clean for the pitcher.
It’s good not just for this idea of fear of death but just in more general terms. If any player were to be hit directly in the head it could cause severe damage that may not result in death but tragic results anyway…
Ray Chapman’s legacy will last an eternity and that’s for certain. Just look, I’m still writing about the player from the team back in 1920.
May Ray Chapman rest in peace and continue to be remembered.