Ray Chapman

From BR Bullpen

Ray Chapman.jpg

Raymond Johnson Chapman

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 170 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Shortstop Ray Chapman played nine seasons in the majors and is the only player to die from injuries sustained during a big league game. A regular in eight of those seasons, he had already accumulated over 1,000 hits when his career ended.


Born in Kentucky, Chapman grew up in southern Illinois. He began his pro career in 1910 with the Springfield Senators of the Three-I League. He began the next year with the Davenport Prodigals, hitting .293 with 75 runs scored and 50 stolen bases in 139 games, before his contract was purchased by the Cleveland Naps. He ended 1911 and spent most of 1912 with the Toledo Mud Hens, hitting .310 with 101 runs scored and 41 steals in the latter year. This performance earned him a late-season call-up to the Naps, and he hit .312 and scored 29 runs in 31 games.

Chapman hit .258 and led the American League with 45 sacrifice hits in his first full season in the majors in 1913, playing alongside Hall of Fame Nap Lajoie in the Cleveland infield. Limited to 106 games by a broken leg in 1914, he bounced back the next year, hitting .270 while scoring 101 runs. He had perhaps his finest all-around season in 1917, hitting .302 with 98 runs scored. He also stole 52 bases, a club record for more than 60 years, and set a major league record with 67 sacrifice hits, a mark that still stands today. In 1918, he led the AL with 84 runs scored and 84 walks and served in the Naval Reserve after the season, until World War I ended.

Chapman put together another fine season for the Indians in 1920, hitting .304 with 97 runs scored through his first 110 games. Facing the New York Yankees on August 16th of that year, he was struck in the head by a pitch by Carl Mays. He was knocked to the ground but eventually able to walk toward the clubhouse with the assistance of teammates. However, he collapsed near second base and was rushed to a hospital. He died the next day and was buried in Cleveland's Lakeview Cemetery, where his grave features a large marble baseball.

It is possible that Chapman, had he lived to play full career, might have made the Hall of Fame. He was a good defensive shortstop and, compared to most shortstops of his era, a very good hitter. Through age 29, he compared favorably to contemporaries Dave Bancroft and Rabbit Maranville, who both made the Hall. With a fuller career, he almost certainly would have been first or second all-time in sacrifice hits; as it was, he ended up sixth (through 2013) with 334.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL Runs Scored Leader (1918)
  • AL Bases on Balls leader (1918)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1915)
  • 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1917)

Records Held[edit]

  • Sacrifice hits, season, 67, 1917

Further Reading[edit]

  • Howard Camerik: The Curse of Carl Mays, a novel, VBW Publishing, 2006
  • Molly Lawless: Hit by Pitch: Ray Chapman, Carl Mays and the Fatal Fastball, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2012.
  • Mike Sowell: The Pitch that Killed: The Story of Carl Mays, Ray Chapman and the Pennant Race of 1920, Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, IL, 2004.

Related Sites[edit]