August 16, 2017

"BREAD AND BUTTER":

One fateful pitch still in Mays' Hall path (T.R. Sullivan, 2/26/07,  MLB.com)

It may be the most infamous pitch in Major League history. Mays threw the pitch in the fifth inning on Aug. 16, 1920, while with the New York Yankees at the Polo Grounds. He was pitching against the Cleveland Indians and the batter was shortstop Ray Chapman.

It was a high fastball and Chapman was known to crowd the plate. Mays, a submarine-style pitcher who released his pitches just off the ground, had a reputation for throwing inside but insisted afterward that Chapman leaned into the pitch. One theory suggested that the spikes on Chapman's front left shoe got caught in the dirt and kept him from getting out of the way.

For whatever reason, he did not. Instead the pitch hit him on the left side of the head. In those days, they did not wear batting helmets and wouldn't for several more decades.

The ball made a loud sickening sound as it hit Chapman and bounded back to Mays. The pitcher thought the ball had hit the bat and threw over to first base for the out.

Chapman crumpled to the ground. He eventually tried to get up and walk toward the clubhouse in deep center field but collapsed around second base. The ball hit him so hard that it not only lacerated the left side of his face at the point of impact but on the opposite side as well where the brain pushed against the skin. Blood came out of the right ear.

He was taken to the clubhouse, where he mumbled, "I'm all right, tell Mays not to worry." He eventually lapsed into a coma and was taken to a hospital, where he eventually died.

He is the only player to ever die from an injury on a Major League Baseball field and that continues to weigh heavily when one reviews Mays' Hall of Fame credentials.

Posted by at August 16, 2017 6:31 AM

  

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