Quote of the day

I can remember a sports writer asking me for a quote and I didn’t know what a quote was.  I thought it was some kind of soft drink.

~Joe DiMaggio

Photo source: Fact Monster

This day in baseball: Death by pitch

Ray Chapman (Photo source: The New York Times)

In a game against the Yankees on 16 August 1920, Cleveland infielder Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Carl Mays.  Though, according to some accounts, the pitch barely missed the strike zone, Chapman had been crowding the plate against the submarine huler.  Carl Mays was also well-known as a headhunter when it came to hitters who crowded the plate, and few doubted that the inside pitch was accidental (not that Mays intended to kill, of course).  After being struck by the pitch, Chapman was taken from the Polo Grounds to the hospital, where Dr. T. M. Merrigan performed surgery.  He never regained consciousness, however, and Chapman died twelve hours later, at 4:40 a.m. on 17 August.  It is the only case in Major League history in which a ballplayer died as a direct result of being hit by a pitch.

Of the tragedy, the New York Tribune wrote:

The extreme rarity of fatal or even of serious accidents in baseball is surprising, when one remembers the vast multitudes who play the game. Consider the number who are drowned while bathing or boating, who meet injury or death while hunting. In the light of such comparisons baseball is singularly free from untoward happenings. Ray Chapman’s fate, sad as it is, may be rated as sheer accident. It represents a coincidence not likely to occur again.

English: 's grave in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland

Chapman’s grave in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Nevertheless, the incident resulted in some rule changes in Major League Baseball.  The following season, the league established a rule that required umpires to replace the baseball anytime it got dirty (prior to this, pitchers made a point to dirty them up as much as possibly, in order to make them more difficult for a batter to see).  The banning of the spitball after the 1920 season was also due in part to Chapman’s death.  Interestingly, however, it would be another thirty years before batting helmets would be invented.



“Beaned by a Pitch, Ray Chapman Dies.”  The New York Times, August 17, 1920.  The New York Times Company,  2004.  Web.  Accessed 17 August 2013.  http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/sports/year_in_sports/08.17.html

Gorman, Bob.  “‘I Guess I Forgot to Duck’: On-Field Player Fatalities in the Minor Leagues.”  Nine 11.2 (Spring 2003).

“Ray Chapman.”  BaseballLibrary.com.  The Idea Logical Company, Inc., 2006.  Web.  Accessed 17 August 2013.  http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Ray_Chapman_1891

This day in baseball: Big Mac starts early

On 15 August 1990, Oakland’s Mark McGwire hits a game-winning grand slam as the A’s are victorious over the Red Sox, 6-2 in ten innings.  In doing so, McGwire becomes the first player to hit at least thirty home runs in each of his first four Major League seasons.

Photo source: Razzball.com

Calvin and Hobbes and the National Pastime

Now, I feel pretty safe in saying that I am not the only Calvin & Hobbes fan out there.  So, as a treat today, I say why not combine this great comic with a great sport?  Thank you, Bill Watterson!

This day in baseball: There is tying in baseball

Perhaps the most evenly matched game in baseball history was played on 13 August 1910 between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Brooklyn Superbas (Dodgers).  The two teams not only played to an 8-8 tie, they both had 38 at-bats, 13 hits, 12 assists, 2 errors, 5 strikeouts, 3 walks, 1 passed ball, and 1 hit-by-pitch.  Each side also used only two pitchers in what George F. Will called, “[The] baseball game of perfect symmetry.”

Washington Park in Brooklyn, c. 1909 (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Switch-hitter vs. switch-pitcher

A few weeks ago, I wrote about switch-pitcher Tony Mullane, and Steve of Broken Bats Baseball mentioned that the New York Yankees had a switch-pitcher in their organization.  A couple days ago, I discovered this video of the last at-bat in a game between the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones on 19 June 2008.  In it, Pat Venditte finds a new level of frustration when he takes the mound against a switch-hitter, though I have to confess, I found it amusing to watch.

Quote of the day

A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz.

~Humphrey Bogart

This day in baseball: Molitor’s milestones

In a 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on 8 August 1998, Twins DH Paul Molitor goes 5-for-5 with a stolen base.  With this performance, he becomes just the fifth player in Major League history to collect 3,000 hits and 500 steals in his career.  The other four players?  Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, and Lou Brock.  Pretty good company!

Photo source: ESPN.com

Baseball 101: Fly balls

Like a ground ball, the basic definition of a fly ball seems pretty self-evident: it is a batted ball that is hit into the air.

A standard fly ball, or “fly,” is usually hit high and travels some distance laterally, usually to the outfield.  On the defensive side, fielding a fly ball is usually considered to be a routine play, and catching a fly ball before it hits the ground results in an out.  A pop fly, sometimes called a “pop up,” is a batted ball that typically soars even higher than a routine fly ball, though it does not travel very far laterally, if at all.

Meanwhile, a line drive is a ball that, while hit in the air, does not quite typically as a fly ball.  Line drives, or “liners,” are hit lower to the ground than routine fly balls, and usually with more speed and power.  They have little to no arc in their flight paths and are generally more difficult to field than routine fly balls.  A big reason that the third base position is referred to as “the hot spot” is because a lot of line drives get hit towards third base, often at dangerously high speeds.

Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt catches a routine fly ball when asked to play outfield in a 16-inning game against the Astros (Photo source: USA Today)

This day in baseball: Cy Young’s debut

On 6 August 1890, pitching legend Cy Young made his Major League debut at Chicago’s West Side Park at the age of twenty-three.  He is credited with the win as the Cleveland Spiders defeated the Colts 8-1.  Young dominated, allowing the Colts only three hits.  He finished his rookie season with a 9-7 record, and would go on to win 511 games in his career.

Photo source: ESPN.com