The Death of Ray Chapman
On August 16, 1920, the Cleveland Indians were in first place, albeit by just a few percentage points, and making their third and final visit of the season to the Polo Grounds, then the cavernous home of both the New York Giants and the New York Yankees. Facing Cleveland on that day was Yankees ace Carl Mays. An ethereal fog that hung over the Polo Grounds had been complicated by a drizzle by the time shortstop Ray Chapman led off the fifth inning for Cleveland. May's best pitch was delivered with an underhand sweep. Down went his body and out shot his arm from the blur of white shirts and dark suits in the open bleachers in the deep background behind him. The pitch struck Chapman in the temple and killed him -- from all indications he never saw it. As a consequence of the only on-the-field fatality in major league history, dirty or scuffed balls thereafter were discarded immediately from play and patrons were no longer allowed to sit in the center field bleachers. Mays was quickly exonerated from any wrongdoing but the following season fell under suspicion of throwing the 1921 World Series. This, more than the Chapman incident, would haunt him the rest of his days.
-- David Nemec & Peter Palmer
1001 Fascinating Baseball Facts
On August 1, 1960, the American nuclear-powered submarine Seadragon left Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to chart a new Northwest Passage across the top of the world to the Pacific.
In the course of the historic journey, the Seadragon would become the first submarine to dive under icebergs. At one juncture, while negotiating a ticklish 850-mile passage through the Canadian archipelago, Comdr. George P. Steele consulted a 140-year-old explorer's journal. Shortly before the boat reached the North Pole, the navy briefly lost radio contact with her. On the night of August 25, 1960, the Seadragon broke through the ice at the pole and reported all was well. The crew was fine, if in need of some exercise. Skies were clear, with temperatures in the high twenties. Baseball weather.
"We have maneuvered the ship through light ice to where we can put a life raft over ... to ferry over a party to play baseball," Commander Steele radioed. "The men are wearing the warmest clothes they can get."
The 360 degrees of longitude and the International Dateline converge at the Pole. Thus the polar baseball diamond was arranged so a home run would travel "from today into tomorrow and from one side of the world to the other." A runner leaving home plate also reached first base twelve hours later. Nobody hit one into next week.
Even at the North Pole, the pastime proved to be a great equalizer: the enlisted men beat the officers, 13-10.
-- David Cataneo
Baseball Legends and Lore
The disasters that began afflicting the [California Angels] in 1962 lent an air of spookiness to organization operations. In April of that year, outfielder [Ken] Hunt, who had walloped 25 homers in his rookie season the year before, stood flexing his back on the on-deck circle, snapped his collarbone, and never played a full schedule again. In August, veteran reliever Art Fowler was struck in the face by a line drive during batting practice and lost his vision in one eye. In 1964, a car accident put paid to the promise shown by lefty Ken McBride. That same season, the club paid out $300,000 signing bonuses to college stars Rich Reichardt and Tom Egan, only to have Reichardt's potential thwarted by the loss of a kidney and Egan's by a beanball that broke his jaw and cost him his vision in an eye. In 1965, rookie Dick Wantz pitched himself into the rotation in spring training, but was dead of a brain tumor four months later. In 1968, bullpen ace Minnie Rojas lost his wife and two children, and was himself permanently paralyzed, in an auto accident. Other road accidents killed infielder Chico Ruiz in 1972, reliever Bruce Heinbecher in 1974, and shortstop Mike Miley in 1977. In 1978, Lyman Bostock, one of the league's premier hitters, was shot to death as an innocent bystander. After surrendering a game-tying gopher pitch to Boston's Dave Henderson that eventually turned the tide in favor of the Red Sox in the 1986 LCS, relief specialist Donnie Moore suffered bouts of depression that ended in his suicide.
-- Donald Dewey & Nicholas Acocella
1001 Fascinating Baseball Facts, David Nemec & Peter Palmer
Copyright 1993 by Publications International, Ltd.
Published by Longmeadow Press (Stanford, CT), 1994
available at ABEBOOKS
Baseball Legends and Lore, David Cataneo
Copyright 1991 by David Cataneo
Published by Galahad Books (New York), 1995
available at ABEBOOKS
Total Ballclubs, Donald Dewey & Nicholas Acocella
Copyright 2005 by SPORT Media Publishing, Inc.
Published by SPORT Media Publishing, Inc. (Toronto), 2005
available at AMAZON