His name was Ray Chapman. He was a shortstop with the Cleveland Indians in 1920. He was one of the team’s major stars and their best infielder. But his name became a footnote in history when he became the first and only player in major league baseball to die after being hit by a baseball.

It happened at the Polo Grounds in New York City in a game against the Yankees. Chapman had a reputation for allowing himself to be hit by pitches and Yankees pitcher Carl Mays was a famous “bean ball” pitcher. It was recipe for disaster.

Mays had an underhand style that made it hard for batters to see the ball. Chapman had a hunched over stance and was expecting a curve ball, but instead Mays threw a fastball. Chapman never got out of the way and the ball hit him in the left temple with a sound so loud some people in the crowd thought Chapman had hit the ball.

Chapman fell to the ground – other players helped him up and to the dugout. But he lost consciousness and died 12 hours later.

There were a number of changes made in the game as a result of Chapman’s death – the biggest was how often the baseballs are changed. Up until then just a handful of balls were used during a game, even after they got yellow with dirt and tobacco juice. The new procedure was to replace any ball that became scuffed or dirty with a new one.

90 new baseballs are required at the beginning of the game. Between 60 and 70 balls are used per game. The average life of a major league baseball is 6 pitches.

SOURCE: Major League Baseball

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