Ray Chapman

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Ray Chapman
Ray Chapman Baseball.jpg
Ray Chapman
Born: (1891-01-15)January 15, 1891
Beaver Dam, Kentucky, U.S.
Died: August 17, 1920(1920-08-17) (aged 29)
New York, New York, U.S.
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 30, 1912 for the Cleveland Naps
Last MLB appearance
August 16, 1920 for the Cleveland Indians
Career statistics
Batting average .278
Home runs 17
Runs batted in 364
Career highlights and awards

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

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 at a major league baseball 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 the spitball was banned after the 1920 season. Chapman's death was also one of the examples used to emphasize the need for wearing batting helmets (although the rule was not adopted until over 30 years later).


Chapman was born in Beaver Dam, Kentucky, and raised in Herrin, Illinois.[3] He broke into the Major Leagues in 1912 with the Cleveland team, then known as the Naps.[4]

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 putouts three times and 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.[5]

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 he was marrying into, as well as to begin a family.[6]


Restored Raymond Johnson Chapman plaque in Progressive Field

Not long after Chapman died, a bronze plaque was designed in his honor. The plaque features Chapman's bust framed by a baseball diamond and flanked by two bats, one of them 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 later at Cleveland Stadium before being taken down for unspecified reasons.[1]

In February 2007, the neglected plaque was re-discovered by workers cleaning out a storage room at Jacobs Field.[1] Covered by years of dust and dirt, the bronze surface had oxidized a dark brown; the text was illegible.[1] The plaque was refurbished and hung in Heritage Park, an exhibit of Indians history at Progressive Field.[7] Jim Folk, Indians' Vice President of Ball Park 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."[1]

Chapman was inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in 2006.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.


  1. ^ a b c d e Withers, Tom (March 29, 2007). "Hidden diamond: Indians uncover lost Ray Chapman plaque". usatoday.com. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  2. ^ Goodman, Rebecca (2005). This Day in Ohio History. Emmis Books. p. 250. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Poremba, David Lee (2000). The American League: The Early Years. Arcadia Publishing. p. 125. ISBN 0-7385-0710-5. 
  5. ^ Goodman, Rebecca; Brunsman, Barrett J. (2005). This Day in Ohio History. Emmis Books. p. 250. ISBN 1-57860-191-6. 
  6. ^ http://www.thedeadballera.com/participants.html
  7. ^ "Indians uncover lost Chapman plaque". espn.com. 2007-03-29. 

External links[edit]