Ray Chapman

Raymond Johnson Chapman (January 15, 1891 – August 17, 1920) was an American baseball player, spending his entire career as a shortstop for the Cleveland Indians.

Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Yankees pitcher Carl Mays, and died 12 hours later. He remains the only Major League Baseball player to have died from an injury received during an MLB game.[1][2] His death led to Major League Baseball establishing a rule requiring umpires to replace the ball whenever it became dirty, and it was partially the reason—along with sanitary concerns—that the spitball was banned after the 1920 season.[3][4] Chapman's death was also one of the examples used to emphasize the need for wearing batting helmets (although the rule requiring their use was not adopted until over 30 years later).

Ray Chapman
Ray Chapman Baseball
Born: January 15, 1891
Beaver Dam, Kentucky
Died: August 17, 1920 (aged 29)
New York, New York
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 30, 1912, for the Cleveland Naps
Last MLB appearance
August 16, 1920, for the Cleveland Indians
MLB statistics
Batting average.278
Home runs17
Runs batted in364
Career highlights and awards


Chapman was born in Beaver Dam, Kentucky, and raised in Herrin, Illinois.[5] He broke into the Major Leagues in 1912 with the Cleveland team, then known as the Naps.[6]

Chapman led the American League in runs scored and walks in 1918. A top-notch bunter, Chapman is sixth on the all-time list for sacrifice hits and holds the single season record with 67 in 1917. Only Stuffy McInnis has more career sacrifices as a right-handed batter. Chapman was also an excellent shortstop who led the league in assists once. He batted .300 three times, and led the Indians in stolen bases four times. In 1917, he set a team record of 52 stolen bases, which stood until 1980. He was hitting .303 with 97 runs scored when he died. He was one of the few players whom Ty Cobb considered a friend.[7]

There was conjecture that 1920 was going to be Chapman's last year as a pro baseball player. Shortly before the season began, Chapman married Kathleen Daly, who was the daughter of a prominent Cleveland businessman. Chapman had indicated he was going to retire to devote himself to the family business into which he was marrying, as well as to begin a family.[8]


Ray Chapman Grave
Ray Chapman's grave

At the time of Chapman's death, part of every pitcher's job was to dirty up a new ball the moment it was thrown onto the field. By turns, they smeared it with dirt, licorice, and tobacco juice; it was deliberately scuffed, sandpapered, scarred, cut, even spiked. The result was a "misshapen, earth-colored ball that traveled through the air erratically, tended to soften in the later innings, and, as it came over the plate, was very hard to see."[9]

This practice is believed to have contributed to Chapman's death. He was struck with a pitch by Carl Mays on August 16, 1920, in a game against the New York Yankees at the Polo Grounds.[10] Mays threw with a submarine delivery, and it was the top of the fifth inning, in the late afternoon. Eyewitnesses recounted that Chapman never moved out of the way of the pitch, presumably unable to see the ball. "Chapman didn't react at all," said Rod Nelson of the Society for American Baseball Research. "It was at twilight and it froze him." The sound of the ball smashing into Chapman's skull was so loud that Mays thought it had hit the end of Chapman's bat, so he fielded the ball and threw to first base.[1]

Mike Sowell, in his book The Pitch That Killed, states that first baseman Wally Pipp caught Mays's throw to first and then realized something was very wrong. Chapman never took any steps, but rather slowly collapsed to his knees and then to the ground with blood pouring out of his left ear. Umpire Tommy Connolly quickly called for doctors in the stands to come to Chapman's aid. Eventually Chapman was able to stand and to try to walk off the field, but mumbled when he attempted to speak. As he was walking off the field, his knees buckled and he had to be assisted the rest of the way. He was replaced by Harry Lunte for the rest of the game, which the Indians won 4–3.[11] Chapman died 12 hours later in a New York City hospital, at about 4:30 a.m.[12]

Thousands of mourners were present for Chapman's funeral at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland.[2] In tribute to Chapman's memory, Cleveland players wore black armbands, with manager Tris Speaker leading the team to win both the pennant and the first World Series championship in the history of the club.[13] Rookie Joe Sewell took Chapman's place at shortstop, and went on to have a Hall of Fame career (which he coincidentally concluded with the Yankees).[14]

Ray Chapman is buried at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio, not far from where his new home was being built on Alvason Road in East Cleveland. He and his wife had visited the home as it was being built several hours before he departed for New York on his final road trip.[7]


Restored Chapman plaque at Heritage Park in Progressive Field

Not long after Chapman died, a bronze plaque was designed in his honor, funded by donations from fans. The plaque features Chapman's bust framed by a baseball diamond and flanked by two bats, one of which is draped with a fielder's mitt. At the bottom of the tablet is the inscription, "He lives in the hearts of all who knew him". The plaque was dedicated and hung at League Park and was moved to Cleveland Stadium in 1946 when the Indians moved to that stadium. Sometime in the early 1970s, however, it was taken down for unknown reasons.[1][15]

The plaque was rediscovered while the Indians were moving from Cleveland Stadium to Jacobs Field after the 1993 season. Jim Folk, the Indians' vice president of ballpark operations, said, "It was in a store room under an escalator in a little nook and cranny. We didn't know what we were going to do with it, but there was no way it was just going to stay there when we moved to Jacobs Field. We had it crated up and put on a moving truck and it came over along with our file cabinets and all the other stuff that came out of the stadium." After the move, it was lost and forgotten once again. "It just kind of got forgotten about, to be honest," Folk said.[1]

In February 2007, workers discovered the plaque while cleaning out a storage room at Progressive Field. Covered by thirteen years of dust and dirt, the bronze surface had oxidized a dark brown and the text was illegible. The plaque was refurbished and made part of Heritage Park at Progressive Field, an area that opened soon after in April 2007 and includes the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame and other exhibits from the team's history. Chapman had previously been inducted into the team hall of fame in July 2006, part of the first new induction class since 1972.[1][16][17]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Withers, Tom (March 29, 2007). "Indians uncover lost Chapman plaque". ESPN.com. Associated Press. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Goodman, Rebecca (2005). This Day in Ohio History. Emmis Books. p. 250. ISBN 9781578601912. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
  3. ^ Wulf, Steve (1981-04-13). "Tricks Of The Trade". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  4. ^ Terbush, Jon (2013-05-03). "Spitballs, nail files, and other ways pitchers cheat". The Week. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  5. ^ Gay, Timothy M. (2006). Tris Speaker: The Rough-and-tumble Life of a Baseball Legend. U of Nebraska Press. p. 174. ISBN 0-8032-2206-8.
  6. ^ Poremba, David Lee (2000). The American League: The Early Years. Arcadia Publishing. p. 125. ISBN 0-7385-0710-5.
  7. ^ a b Goodman, Rebecca; Brunsman, Barrett J. (2005). This Day in Ohio History. Emmis Books. p. 250. ISBN 1-57860-191-6.
  8. ^ http://www.thedeadballera.com/participants.html
  9. ^ Ward, Geoffrey C.; Burns, Ken (1996). Baseball: An Illustrated History. Knopf. p. 153. ISBN 0-679-76541-7.
  10. ^ Propert, Phyllis (July 1957). "Carl Mays: My Pitch That Killed Chapman Was A Strike!". Baseball Digest. 16 (6). ISSN 0005-609X.
  11. ^ Caple, Jim (2001-05-21). "Classic Box Score: August 16, 1920". espn.com. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
  12. ^ The Death of Ray Chapman, The New York Times, August 17, 1920
  13. ^ McNeil, William (2002). The Single-Season Home Run Kings: Ruth, Maris, McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds. McFarland. p. 24. ISBN 0-7864-1441-3.
  14. ^ Berkow, Ira (1989-10-13). "Sports of the Times; When Sewell Replaced Ray Chapman". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
  15. ^ Krsolovic, Ken; Fritz, Bryan (2013). League Park: historic home of Cleveland baseball, 1891–1946. Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-7864-6826-3.
  16. ^ "Indians Hall of Fame returns" (Press release). Cleveland Indians. July 11, 2006. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  17. ^ "Heritage Park". Indians.com. Cleveland Indians. 2017. Retrieved March 11, 2017.

Further reading

  • Vigil, Vicki Blum (2007). Cemeteries of Northeast Ohio: Stones, Symbols & Stories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59851-025-6
  • The book The Pitch That Killed, by Mike Sowell, is a history of the Chapman-Mays tragedy.
  • The historical novel, The Curse of Carl Mays, by Howard Camerik, also recounts the Chapman-Mays incident.
  • The Dan Gutman novel Ray & Me, tells the story of the Chapman incident with a fictional touch as the main character Joe Stoshack travels back in time to try to prevent his death.
  • Do It for Chappie: The Ray Chapman Tragedy by Rick Swaine is a historical novel based on true events involving real-life historical figures.

External links

1912 Cleveland Naps season

The 1912 Cleveland Naps season was a season in American baseball. The Naps had two of the best hitters in the majors in Shoeless Joe Jackson and Nap Lajoie. Despite this, they ended up back in the second division, finishing in fifth place with a record of 75-78.

1913 Cleveland Naps season

The 1913 Cleveland Naps season was a season in American baseball. The team finished third in the American League with a record of 86–66, 9½ games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.

1914 Cleveland Naps season

The 1914 Cleveland Naps season was a season in American baseball. The team finished eighth in the eight-team American League with a record of 51–102, 48½ games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.

1915 Cleveland Indians season

The 1915 Cleveland Indians season was a season in American baseball. The team finished seventh in the American League with a record of 57–95, 44½ games behind the Boston Red Sox.

1916 Cleveland Indians season

The 1916 Cleveland Indians season was a season in American baseball. The team finished sixth in the American League with a record of 77–77, 14 games behind the Boston Red Sox.

1920 Cleveland Indians season

The 1920 Cleveland Indians season was the 20th season in franchise history. The Indians won the American League pennant and proceeded to win their first World Series title in the history of the franchise. Pitchers Jim Bagby, Stan Coveleski and Ray Caldwell combined to win 75 games. Despite the team's success, the season was perhaps more indelibly marked by the death of starting shortstop Ray Chapman, who died after being hit by a pitch on August 17.

1920 World Series

In the 1920 World Series, the Cleveland Indians beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, then known interchangeably as the Robins in reference to their manager Wilbert Robinson, in seven games, five games to two. This series was a best-of-nine series, like the first World Series in 1903 and the World Series of 1919 and 1921. The only World Series triple play, the first World Series grand slam and the first World Series home run by a pitcher all occurred in Game 5 of this Series. The Indians won the series in memory of their former shortstop Ray Chapman, who had been killed earlier in the season when struck in the head by a pitched ball.

The triple play was unassisted and turned by Cleveland's Bill Wambsganss in Game 5. Wambsganss, playing second base, caught a line drive off the bat of Clarence Mitchell, stepped on second base to put out Pete Kilduff, and tagged Otto Miller coming from first base. It was the second of fifteen (as of 2016) unassisted triple plays in major-league baseball history, and it remains the only one in postseason play. Mitchell made history again in the eighth inning by hitting into a double play, accounting for five outs in two straight at-bats.

The fifth game also saw the first grand slam in World Series history (hit by Cleveland's Elmer Smith) and the first Series home run by a pitcher (Cleveland's Jim Bagby, Sr.). And in that same game, Brooklyn outhit Cleveland but lost 8–1.

Cleveland had won the American League pennant in a close race with the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees. The Sox's participation in the Black Sox Scandal the previous year had caught up to them late in the season, and their star players were suspended with three games left in the season, when they were in a virtual tie with the Indians. The Yankees, with their recently acquired star Babe Ruth, were almost ready to start their eventual World Series dynasty. For Cleveland, it would prove to be one of their few successes in a long history of largely either poor or not-quite-good enough clubs.

It is notable that all seven games of the 1920 World Series were won by the team who scored first. In fact, Game 4 was the only game in which the losing team scored a run before the winning team had scored all of its runs. The lead never changed hands in any game.

This would be the last World Series until 1980 to feature two franchises that had not previously won a championship.

1975 IPSC Handgun World Shoot

The 1975 IPSC Handgun World Shoot I held at Zürich in Switzerland was the first IPSC Handgun World Shoot, and was won by Ray Chapman of United States using a 1911 in .45 caliber. Ray had been central in the development the sport of practical shooting in the late 1950s. He was seeded as number one before the championship, and shot an almost perfect match dropping only one point. He continued to compete until 1979 when he retired.

1976 IPSC Handgun World Shoot

The 1976 IPSC Handgun World Shoot II held in Salzburg, Austria was the second IPSC Handgun World Shoot, and was won by Jan Foss of Norway in front of Ray Chapman of United States by a small margin. Foss had been unknown before the championship and did not participate internationally afterwards.

1977 IPSC Handgun World Shoot

The 1977 IPSC Handgun World Shoot III was held in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) at the end of August, and was the third IPSC Handgun World Shoot, and was won by Dave Westerhout in front of his Rhodesian teammate and second place winner Peter Maunder by 116.403 points and third place winner Raul Walters of United States with further 41.741 points.

After the World Shoot, Westerhout was also honoured as the Rhodesian Sportsman of the Year for 1977 and was awarded the John Hopley Memorial Trophy.

Up till 1977 the World Shoots had been held once a year, but subsequent championships were to be held once every two years.


"Beanball" is a colloquialism used in baseball, for a ball thrown at an opposing player with the intention of striking them such as to cause harm, often connoting a throw at the player's head (or "bean" in old-fashioned slang). A pitcher who throws beanballs often is known as a "headhunter". The term may be applied to any sport in which a player on one team regularly attempts to throw a ball toward the general vicinity of a player of the opposite team, but is typically expected not to hit that player with the ball. In cricket, the equivalent term is "beamer". Some people use the term, beaner, though that usage is discouraged because of the negative connotations associated with that usage.

Carl Mays

Carl William Mays (November 12, 1891 – April 4, 1971) was a right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball from 1915 to 1929. Although he won over 200 games, 27 in 1921 alone, and was a member of four world championship teams, Mays is primarily remembered for throwing the beanball that killed Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians on August 16, 1920. Chapman became the only Major League player to die as a direct result of an on-field injury.

Cleveland Indians award winners and league leaders

This is a list of award winners and league leaders for the Cleveland Indians professional baseball team.

Harry Lunte

Harry August Lunte (September 15, 1892 – July 27, 1965) was a Major League Baseball shortstop. Lunte played for the Cleveland Indians in the 1919 and 1920 seasons. In 49 career games, Lunte had 29 hits, nine RBIs, two doubles, and a .196 batting average. Lunte was a member of the 1920 World Series championship team.

Lunte was the pinch runner for shortstop Ray Chapman after Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays on August 16, 1920. Chapman died the next day, becoming Major League Baseball's second fatality.

He was born and died in St. Louis, Missouri.

Herrin High School

Herrin High School (established 1903) is a secondary school located in Herrin, Illinois. It has an enrollment of about 735 students. It is one of the only high schools in the U.S. that has its own bank, The First Tiger Trust. Notable people who attended HHS include the former Michigan Wolverines &San Diego State men’s basketball coach Steve Fisher, Federal Reserve Board Vice Chairman Richard Clarida,as well as professional baseball player Ray Chapman who is the only man to be killed by a pitch in an MLB game.

Holbrook (electoral division)

Holbrook is an electoral division of West Sussex in the United Kingdom and returns one member to sit on West Sussex County Council. The current County Councillor, Peter Catchpole, is also Cabinet Member for Adults' Services.

Ray Chapman (marksman)

Ray Chapman was an American sport shooter and firearms instructor who was central to the development of practical shooting in the late 1950s and one of the founders of the International Practical Shooting Confederation at the 1976 Columbia Conference. He won the first IPSC Handgun World Shoot in 1975 and took silver behind Jan Foss from Norway in the second World Shoot in 1976. He continued to compete until 1979 when he retired from competition.

In his mid-teens Chapman served in the United States Marine Corps at the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II after having lied about his age to enter. After the war he worked as a policeman for some time before he started working for the California Highway Department where he worked during the 1950s as an engineer. During that time, along with Jeff Cooper and others, he was one of the pioneers of the Southwest Pistol League.

In February 2008 Ray died peacefully at age 79 in a Texas hospital.

Ray Chapman (philatelist)

Ray Chapman AM, MBE, is an Australian philatelist who was added to the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1987.

Submarine (baseball)

In baseball, a submarine pitch is one in which the ball is released often just above the ground, but not underhanded, with the torso bent at a right angle and shoulders tilted so severely that they rotate around a nearly horizontal axis. This is in stark contrast to an underhand pitch in softball in which the torso remains upright, the shoulders are level, and the hips do not rotate.

The "upside down" release of the submariner causes balls to move differently from pitches generated by other arm slots. Gravity plays a significant role, for the submariner's ball must be thrown considerably above the strike zone, after which it drops rapidly back through. The sinking motion of the submariner's fastball is enhanced by forward rotation, in contradistinction to the overhand pitcher's hopping backspin.

Submarine pitches are often the toughest for same-side batters to hit (i.e., a right-handed submarine pitcher is the more difficult for a right-handed batter to hit, and likewise for left-handed pitchers and batters). This is because the submariner's spin is not perfectly level; the ball rotates forward and toward the pitching arm side, jamming same-sided hitters at the last moment, even as the ball drops rapidly through the zone.The rarity of submarine pitchers is almost certainly attributable to its unusual technique. It is not typically a natural style of throwing—it is often a learned style—and because the vast majority of pitchers use an overarm motion, most young pitchers are encouraged to throw overhand.

Though the bending motion required to pitch effectively as a submariner means that submariners may be more at risk of developing back problems, it is commonly thought that the submarine motion is less injurious to the elbow and shoulder. Kent Tekulve and Gene Garber are among the most durable pitchers in baseball history with 1,944 appearances between the two.

Past major league submariners include Carl Mays (whose unorthodox delivery possibly contributed to the fatal beaning of Ray Chapman), Ted Abernathy, Elden Auker, Chad Bradford, Mark Eichhorn, Gene Garber, Kent Tekulve, Todd Frohwirth, and Dan Quisenberry. Steve Olin was also a submarine pitcher.

Shunsuke Watanabe of the Lancaster Barnstormers is known as "Mr. Submarine" in Japan. Watanabe has an even lower release point than the typical submarine pitcher, dropping his pivot knee so low that it scrapes the ground. He now wears a pad under his uniform to avoid injuring his knee. His release is so low that his knuckles often become raw from their periodic drag on the ground.


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