The Pitch That Killed Cleveland Indian Ray Chapman in 1920

Here, from the New York Times’ game account, is a description of the pitch by Yankee Carl Mays that hit Indians’ shortstop Ray Chapman in a game on August 16, 1920, at the Polo Grounds:

Cleveland’s victory [4-3] was accompanied by a severe blow to their pennant chances, however, for in the fifth inning, Ray Chapman, the star of their infield combination, was hit on the side of the head by a swiftly pitched ball by Carl Mays and was so badly injured that it isn’t likely that he will be able to play again this season. He suffered a severe fracture of the skull and an operation was performed at midnight.

The Indians’ shortstop was the first batsman to face Mays in the fifth, and he was leaning over in a crouching position when Mays let one of his underhanded shoots loose. The ball hit Chapman on the left side of the head. The crack of the ball could be heard all over the stand and spectators gasped as they turned their heads away. The injured player dropped unconscious and a doctor was summoned to his aid. The player was partially revived after a time and attempted to walk to the club house with the aid of two of his clubmates. But his legs doubled up under him again and he was carried to the club house and afterwards taken to St. Lawrence Hospital at 457 West 163d Street.

May Hurt Indians’ Chances.

The loss of Chapman may be a severe blow to Speaker’s club, for he has been one of the most brilliant performers in the club’s dash for the pennant. The only reserve infielders Speaker has are Lunte, an inexperienced youngster who finished the game yesterday, and Evans, who is not a shortstop. . . . [Chapman's] injury was much the same as that which happened to Chick Fewster of the Yanks, who was hit by Ed Pfeffer of the Dodgers in Florida last March.

The Times’ writer went on, after the game account, to describe Chapman’s condition:

The second part:

Here’s the headlines:

And the box score:

Note the lack of sustained focus on Chapman’s injury in the headlines. The account also devoted almost as much space, three paragraphs, to the three-run Yankee rally in the bottom of the ninth as it did to the beaning.

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Published in: on August 23, 2012 at 8:50 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Amazing how the conference held regarding how medically to save his life included the team manager and the team business manager. I’m guessing neither of them had degrees in medicine.
    Rule of thumb: Never look for the curve-ball. Look for the fastball and adjust to the off-speed stuff.
    Nice find,
    Bill

  2. This account was back in the day when journalism wasn’t driven by emotion, like today, but the facts. The reporter was sent to cover the baseball game. The injury was only part of it; but he does give it the major part of the headline.

    Of course if this happened today, there would be 24/7 coverage, with the cry for big baseball to be reined in, or outlawed because it’s dangerous for the children. It would be on video, and the beaning would be shown 100 times an hour, and reporters would follow Carl Mays’ every step trying to lay a guilt trip upon him.


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