Today in Tribe History: August 16, 1920

1920 – Twenty-nine-year-old Indians shortstop Ray Chapman is hit in the head by a fastball from the Yankees’ Carl Mays in the fifth inning of a game at the Polo Grounds in New York.

The Indians’ righty appeared to freeze at the plate, his spikes possibly caught, in response to the 1-1 pitch and made little effort to evade the submarine style pitch from the notorious headhunter Mays. The pitcher fielded the ball and threw to New York first baseman Wally Pipp, thinking the ball had struck the bat, based on the sound and the distance the ball traveled.

The popular “Chappie”, who had indicated previously his intentions to retire following the season to work in his in laws’ family business, fell to his knees, his face in notable pain with blood pouring from his left ear. He initially attempted to walk off under his own power, but collapsed on his way to the clubhouse and needed the assistance of two teammates to help him the rest of the way.

He arrived at St. Lawrence Hospital unconscious with a fractured skull. Surgery was performed shortly after midnight and lasted 75 minutes. Surgeons removed a small piece of his skull one and a half inches square. He was also found to have a ruptured lateral sinus and severe clotting in his brain from the force of the impact. While he seemed to improve briefly, he died the next morning, before his wife, pregnant with their first child, could arrive from Cleveland. He was buried at Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetary.

Chapman was the first and only professional baseball player to die as a result of being struck by a pitch.

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