grafiklit

werewolves and the kitchen sink.

Carl Mays’s death pitch


I’m a fan of old-time baseball: the 1919 Black Sox, Murderer’s Row, the Gashouse Gang, Dizzy Dean. I can name more dead ballplayers than I can living, active ones.

And while I thought that would be a good segue into this post, it’s not working out that way. I’m kind of stuck. So I’ll just come out and type it: in 1920, a pitcher named Carl Mays killed a Cleveland Indians shortstop during a game, and this is how it happened.

Mays played for the New York Yankees, and on August 16, 1920, at the Polo Grounds, he was facing Ray Chapman, a right-handed batter. Mays specialized in the submarine pitch, basically an underhanded pitch. The game was in the top of the 5th inning, during twilight, when Mays made his fateful throw. According to witnesses, Chapman never moved out of the way of the ball, which was heading right for his head. It’s been speculated that he never saw it; back then, pitchers dirtied up the balls with chewing tobacco, dirt, anything to make the ball hard to see. In the failing light, the brown-colored ball might have blended right in.

mays going into his submarine pitch delivery

Players didn’t wear helmets back then, and the ball smashed into Chapman’s skull. The ensuing crack was so loud that Mays later said he thought that Chapman’s bat had hit the ball, so he fielded it and threw it to first base.

He needn’t have bothered. Chapman’s knees buckled and he sank to the ground still at home plate. Blood poured out of his left ear. Chapman did get to his feet a short time later, but collapsed again while walking off the field. He was taken to a hospital, where he died of a fractured skull about twelve hours later.

In the wake of his death, the MLB required that a ball be replaced when it became dirty, but requiring batters to wear helmets wouldn’t happen until thirty or so years later.

ray chapman.

<more info: The Pitch that Killed, by Mike Sowell>

5 comments on “Carl Mays’s death pitch

  1. sandylikeabeach
    11/18/2011

    Wow, baseball usually puts me to sleep, but I never knew it had killed someone.

    • kat
      11/18/2011

      Yup . . . and there was a guy in the early years of the game, the late 1800s, who ruptured his bladder during a game . . . supposedly because he swung the heavy bats they used back then too hard.

      Ty Cobb liked to sharpen the metal spikes on his shoes and slide in to a base feet-first, so the spikes would cut the opposing baseman.

      Nowadays, except for the juicing scandals, baseball’s pretty dull.

  2. The Paranormalist
    11/19/2011

    I share your love of old-time baseball. How this story slipped past me I do not know. Thanks for posting it.

  3. El Guapo
    11/19/2011

    Damn Yankees.

    GO METS!!!!

    Was this incident mentioned when the MLB required helmets?

    • kat
      11/20/2011

      I don’t know . . . possibly.

      Damn Yankees indeed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on 11/18/2011 by in pop culture and tagged , , , , , .
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,237 other followers

%d bloggers like this: