Sunday, August 16, 2020

Killed By Pitched Ball -- August 17, 2020


Indiana Daily Times, 17-August-1920

The Cleveland Indians were playing the New York Yankees at the Polo Grounds. Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a submarine pitch from Yankee Carl Mays. Tris Speaker had been a famous outfielder. Chapman was well-regarded and Mays was not. Chapman died early the next morning. This encouraged baseball to require umpires to keep a clean ball in play. Chapman's pregnant wife Katie rushed to New York on a train and fainted when she learned that her husband was dead. 

Players from Boston and Detroit threatened to boycott any game that Mays pitched in. 



Ray Chapman, Cleveland
Shortstop, Succumbs After
Being Hit by Mays.


Ball Took Fast Jump,
Pitcher Mays Declares

NEW YORK, Aug. 17.—Pitcher Carl Mays of the Yankees declared this morning before he had heard that Ray Chapman had died, that the injury was due to a roughened surface on the ball.

"A roughened spot on a ball—sometimes even a scratch —-will make a ball do queer things. The ball that hit Chapman was a fast one that took a fierce jump as it approached the plate.

“Chapman, never had a chance to get out of the way."

Mays was told of Chapman's death by a reporter after he had told the story of the accident. He said he had nothing to say except that he was profoundly shocked.

Tris Speaker, manager of the Cleveland club, declined to say anything about the accident, except that Mays was in no way responsible. He agreed that a roughened ball probably made it take the hop that caused the death of the Cleveland shortstop.

Speaker said he had been “all broken up over the loss of a good pal and my entire sympathy goes out to his bereaved wife in her hour of grief.”

NEW YORK. Aug. 17.—Ray Chapman, shortstop for the Cleveland American league baseball team, died early today from injuries be received when he was hit by a pitched ball at the Polo grounds yesterday.

Today’s game between the Yankees and the Indians was called off as the result of Chapman’s death.

Chapman was hit in the head yesterday when he attempted to dodge a fast curve pitched by Carl Mays of the New York Yankees in the fifth inning. He was rushed to St. Lawrence hospital.


Physicians declared he had a fractured skull. An operation was performed at midnight, two surgeons and several nurses assisting. The surgeons made an incision three and a half inches long through fte base of the skull. The operation disclosed a rupture of the lateral sinus and a quantity of clotted blood. A small piece of skull was removed.

However, after the operation, the doctors expressed little hope of being able to save the player's life. They declared his condition was such that he could live only a few hours.

This information, when carried to the Cleveland players at their hotel, who awaited up for news of their teammate, had a depressing effect. They retired after leaving word that news of any developments should immediately be sent to them. They were called shortly after 5 a. m. and informed of Chapman's death.


Chapman was one of the best shortstops in either of the major leagues. His work has aided greatly in keeping the Cleveland Indians well to the front in the pennant race.

He was the first man to bat in the fifth inning of yesterday's game and was leaning over the plate, crouching low. Mays, who has an underhanded delivery, threw a fast, sharp curve. Chapman dodged, but the curve caused the ball to follow him and struck him on the left side of the head.

Mays was working Chapman carefully and the fact that the ball struck Chapman was because the curve broke faster than the batter expected.

Chapman dropped to the ground unconscious. The crack of the ball hitting his head could be heard over the entire Polo grounds.

The Cleveland players gathered around Chapman and attempted to aid him. A doctor was summoned from the stand and gave first aid, Chapman regained consciousness for a moment, the only time before his death. He was carried from the field and hurried to the hospital.


At the hospital today it was said the body was still being held there, but probably would be sent to Cleveland at once. Chapman's home was in Herron, Williamson county, Illinois. His wife was living in Cleveland during the baseball season and was notified when he was injured. She was en-route to New York early today.

Chapman was 29 years old. He was born in Owensboro, KY., and broke into organized baseball in 1910, when he played with the Davenport club. He remained there part of the 1911 season, when he went to the Toledo American association team.

He went to Cleveland in 1912 and since has played continuously with that club. During 1916 he was out of the game for two months with a broken ankle.

Chapman always played the position of shortstop with the exception of a brief period when he filled in at second base and later third for the Cleveland team. He was consistently around .300 during his stay in the game.

First in Majors

NEW YORK, Aug. 17. —Ray Chapman is the first major league baseball player to be killed by a pitched ball, so far as modern records show.

Semi-pro and amateur players have been killed in such a fashion, but major leaguers have been free from such accidents In former seasons.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Aug. 17.—Carl Jager, 27. of Plainwell. Mich., died in a hospital at Kalamazoo today from injuries received when he was struck in the head by a baseball during a game in which he was playing at Kalamazoo Sunday. His skull was fractured and he did not regain consciousness.

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