August 16, 1920 - Today was the day that Ray Chapman, the star shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, was hit in the head by a pitch. He is the first and only major league baseball player to be fatally injured at the plate.
The fateful throw came at the top of the fifth inning. Carl Mays was on the mound for the Yankees. Witnesses say it appeared that Chapman never saw the pitch. The sun was going down and the ball was pretty dirtied up. Common practice at the time was for pitchers to smear and scuff up the ball as much as possible, which would often produce wild and unpredictable trajectories.
In this case the ball veered high and inside. The cracking sound of the ball hitting Chapman's skull was so loud, many of the Yankees thought it had gone off his bat. It bounced fair so they fielded it to first for the out.
The umpire immediately knew something was terribly wrong. Chapman collapsed with blood pouring from his left ear. He died 12 hours later.
The Cleveland Indians would wear black arm bands in Chapman's memory for the rest of the season, which would climax with the team's first World Championship. It was an especially memorable series as it included the first grand slam and the first triple play in a world series.
Despite Chapman's preventable death, batting helmets would not be required in the major leagues for another 30 years.