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A bean ball is a pitched ball that hits, or nearly hits, the batter, usually in the head, often causing some damage to the batter. "Bean" was formerly a slang term for "head". The pitcher might have intended to hit the batter, but since intent is hard to know for sure, the term "bean ball" is frequently used without a requirement of intent. A pitch which gets away from a pitcher who is having trouble with his control, and hits the batter in the head, is also called a "bean ball" even though the pitcher did not intend to hit the batter. The term may also be used when the ball fails to hit the batter but comes very close. A batter hit by a bean ball is said to have been beaned. A bean ball should not be confused with an ordinary brushback pitch, which is intended to intimidate the batter rather than hit him. The slang term chin music is used for a brushback pitch that comes close to the chin.
Bean balls, especially those targeting the batter's head, can be extremely dangerous. Ray Chapman, the only major leaguer killed during a game, was fatally beaned, although the pitcher, Carl Mays, was not disciplined and claimed that he was given a dirty scuffed ball to throw which sailed toward Chapman's head due to the scuffing. Ottis Johnson was the last minor league player to be fatally beaned during a game. Beanballs have cut short the careers of other players, notably Mickey Cochrane, Tony Conigliaro, Dickie Thon and Kirby Puckett. Because of the grave danger of bean balls, players take beaning attempts - or what they think are beaning attempts - very seriously. This often results in charging the mound and bench-clearing brawls. Ironically, it can also lead to beanball wars, in which each team tries to retaliate for previous beanings.
According to the rules of baseball (Rule 8.02d), balls thrown with intent to hit a batter are strictly forbidden. The umpire may eject from the game any pitcher he believes is guilty of throwing at the batter, though he normally will not eject a pitcher before first warning both teams unless the offense is egregious. The umpire need not wait for an attempted beaning before giving a warning. In cases where there is bad blood between the teams, he may even warn them before the start of the game. In addition to ejecting the pitcher, the umpire is allowed to eject a manager who he believes ordered a bean ball.