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A Tragedy in Cleveland 1920
1920 was a year of extremes for MLB. Ruth hit 54 home runs, the Black Sox players were indicted, the spitball was declared illegal and baseball installed its first commissioner, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis. But nothing was as shocking as what happened in Cleveland on August 16. A crowd of over 20,000 were excitedly watching two pennant contenders, the Yanks and Indians, square off. Popular Indian SS Ray Chapman came up to bat in the sixth against the not so popular Yanks pitcher, Carl Mays. Mays, known for his aggressive inside pitching delivered a duster to Chapman to keep him from crowding the plate. Chapman jerked back, but the ball hit him squarely on the temple and he went down. It hit with such velocity that Mays thought it had hit the bat and grabbed the errand ball and threw to 1B Wally Pipp for the out. Only then did he noticed Chapman sprawled out on the ground. Ray never gained consciousness and died 12 hours later. Controversy followed. Did Mays intentionally mean to hit him? Mays denied it, but his past reputation would always garner suspension. Mays, the ace of the Yanks pitching staff, won 26 games that year, followed by 27 in 1921. Many believe that the fatal pitch prevented him from being inducted into the HOF. Chapman was 29 years old with a .278 BA, played good defense and was an excellent bunter which suggests that he often hugged the plate. He is the only player in MLB history to lose his life due to being hit by a pitch. That is actually very astonishing in that it was not until 1971 that batting helmets were required.
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