Jan 15, 1920: A life cut short
Submitted by BTGrimes on Tue, 01/15/2013 - 10:00am
The Ray Chapman Tragedy
BEAVER DAM, KENTUCKY - Ray Chapman was born on this date in 1891. Tragically, his life would end just 29 years later after being hit in the head with a baseball.
Ray Chapman was having a fine career with the Cleveland Indians - the only team he ever played for. He was their regular shortstop. He had a .278 batting average through nine seasons. He was known to be a good base stealer.
On August 16, 1920, Chapman came to bat in the top of the 5th in the Polo Grounds in New York. Carl Mays was pitching for the Yankees. Mays was described as having an underhand delivery. Both Mays and Chapman were right-handed so a typical curve would have broken away from Chapman. Instead one of Mays pitches must have tailed inside striking Chapman in the head.
Mays was known to throw a spitball, which was a legal pitch at the time. A report in the Associated Press of August 17, 1920 said, "The crack of the ball hitting his head could be heard all over the Polo Grounds." Chapman was rushed to St. Lawrence Hospital in New York. Doctors decided to operate at around midnight, but were unable to save him. He died early in the morning of August 17, 1920.
The Indians were in first place at the time of Chapman's death and went on to win the American League pennant and the World Series.
This baseball history story is presented by todayinbaseball.com.