Anniversary Post: MLB’s Only On-Field Death

Ray ChapmanOn this day in 1920, Carl Mays hit Ray Chapman in the head with a baseball pitch. Chapman died as a result the following day. It was ruled an accident, but that isn’t quite right. Mays felt that Chapman was hogging the plate and threw the ball to chase him back. Chapman apparently didn’t see the ball. At that time, part of the game was muddying up the ball so it was hard to see. Chapman is the only man in MLB who ever died directly as a result of an on-field injury.

There are two other notable cases. In 1909, Doc Powers crashed into a wall while chasing a foul ball. He sustained internal injuries and had to be operated on. But he got an infection and died two weeks later. John Lewis Dodge was in MLB, but by 1916, he was playing in the minors. He was hit in the face by Tom Rogers. The two of them were friends, and Rogers apparently never got over it.

Carl Mays didn’t seemed to be too bothered by killing Ray Chapman. He seems to have had his own problems. He grew up in a religious home and his Methodist minister father died when Carl was just 12 years old. He was something of a loner, and not well liked by those around him. He was particularly known for pitching inside. But the season after the death of Chapman, Mays posted his best stats.

There’s no question but that Mays should be in the Hall of Fame. The reason he isn’t is because he didn’t make many friends and he killed Ray Chapman. But I still maintain that the Hall of Fame is a crock. Inclusion shouldn’t be a question of someone’s personality — especially when Ty Cobb is included. As for Ray Chapman, well, he was quite a good player, but almost certainly never would have made it into the Hall of Fame. Although his death certainly should be.

4 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: MLB’s Only On-Field Death

  1. Oh, Cobb isn’t remotely the worst. HOFer Cap Anson screamed bloody murder that every black person be banned from the sport. (He got his wish, yay, Cap!) At least Cobb was a huge dick to everyone, regardless of background.

    I did another little baseball thing I’m rather happy with:

    It’s at the 7th-grade book-report level, but that’s better than nothing when it comes to sneaking liberal values into a sports site.

    I hate the HOF. Or, I hate the “inclusion in bronze” part of it. It makes really nice people wait all their lives to see if they get inducted and really skeezy self-promoters like Pete Rose work overtime to bolster their images.

    I’ve never been to Cooperstown, nor can I imagine a scenario in which I will visit there. However, some years ago, the HOF had a traveling exhibit which hit the Minnesota History Museum, and I dug it. Babe Ruth’s bats were kinda simple and really huge. That sort of thing.

    One could do some good with a traveling exhibit on the history of racism in baseball. The HOF has tons of neat memorabilia that shows stuff from America’s past. But being interpretive isn’t the HOF’s bag.

    I’d discard the “retired five years” eligibility. Make it, “you can go in when you’re dead.” (I hate reading about nice guys waiting to see if they get in before they die.) But that would defeat the whole point, which is to get people arguing over recently retired players and thereby making the HOF a relevant thing, with its collection of memorabilia that currently has no purpose whatsoever.

    • I like the “only dead guys” idea. I do care about Pete Rose in the sense that if he’s not there, what’s the point? It’s all the worst that baseball is. I think the supposed purity of the game and the black sox and all that is just rubbish. But as I’ve said many times, I’m happier watching the minor leagues.

      I’ll check out your article later. I’m on vacation and don’t have easy access to anything.

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