Here are some of the important, interesting, or just plain strange events that occurred this week in Tribe history.
August 12, 1994
On this date, the remainder of baseball’s regular season and the entire postseason, including the World Series, were canceled after the MLB Player’s Association called for a player’s strike. This marked the first time in 90 years that baseball canceled the World Series. Before the strike, baseball treated fans with what was shaping up to be an incredible season. The Montreal Expos had the best record in MLB with a mark of 74-40. Matt Williams was threatening Roger Maris’s single-season home run record of 61. He had 43 at the time of the strike and was on pace to break the record. Tony Gwynn was batting .394, including a .417 clip for the 25 games before the season’s cancellation. He was trying to be the first player to bat .400 since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.
As for the Tribe, this cancellation ended their first year at Jacobs Field. The promise of this young Indians team was on display as they threatened to make the playoffs for the first time since the New York Giants swept them in the 1954 World Series. The Tribe were 66-47, just one game behind the Chicago White Sox in the newly formed AL Central Division.
The strike lasted 232 days, ending when US District Court judge, and future Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor granted the MLBPA’s injunction to prevent the use of replacement players. This ruling forced the players and owners to come back to the negotiating table, leading to an agreement.
Fun fact: Although the 1995 season started with regular players, the league opened with replacement umpires due to their ongoing strike just as the players and owners ended their labor dispute.
August 14, 2003
Facing the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome, lumbering former Tribe slugger Travis Hafner hit for the cycle. Batting sixth and playing designated hitter, Hafner started with a solo home run to deep right in the second inning off Twins starter Brad Radke. He followed this with a double to center off Radke in the fourth. The slow-footed Hafner beat out an infield single in the seventh for his third hit against the Twins starter. Facing Twins reliever James Baldwin in the eighth, the left-handed Hafner scorched a line drive to deep center field. The ball headed toward the wall as he hustled out of the batter’s box. With a headfirst slide, Hafner beat the throw, earning a triple as well as the cycle.
Travis Hafner’s cycle was the first for a member of the Tribe since Andre Thornton managed the feat on April 22, 1978. His eighth-inning triple was one of thirteen he would hit during his twelve-year career.
August 16, 1920
Ray Chapman stepped into the batter’s box at the Polo Grounds to lead off the fifth inning against Yankees starter Carl Mays. Chapman, who was known to crowd the plate, had a count of one ball and one strike. Mays’s third pitch of the at-bat was a fastball that got away from him. Chapman did not move as the ball struck him in the head. The ball rolled to the pitcher’s mound. Perhaps thinking that the ball hit Chapman’s bat, Mays fielded it and threw to first. According to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), Babe Ruth said the sound of the ball striking Chapman could be heard in right field while sportswriter Fred Lieb said he heard a “sickening thud” from the press box.
At this point, Chapman was on his knees, bleeding from his left ear. He tried to walk back to the Tribe’s clubhouse under his own power but stumbled. Teammates helped him the rest of the way. Chapman ended up at St. Lawrence’s Hospital to undergo emergency surgery. After finding a ruptured lateral sinus and clotted blood, doctors removed a small piece of his fractured skull. Despite their best efforts, Ray Chapman died early the next morning at the age of 29. He left behind his wife, Kathleen Day Chapman, who was pregnant with their first child.
This marked the first and only time that a player has died after being struck by a pitch. As a result, some began to push for batting helmets (first used in 1941) and to take steps to use cleaner balls. At the time of Chapman’s death, balls were often scuffed and discolored by dirt and tobacco juice. AL owners had complained to League President Ban Johnson that expenses were piling up because umpires were unnecessarily throwing out baseballs. Per SABR, “Johnson issued a notice ordering umpires to ‘keep the balls in the games as much as possible, except those which were dangerous.'” Chapman’s tragic passing helped lead to the banning of the spitball, a pitch Carl Mays was known for, and requiring umpires to replace dirty balls.
The Tribe ended the 1920 season with their first World Series victory.