|Image Courtesy of SABR|
On this day in 1920, something unique in baseball history occurred. And, while no one knew it at the time, it would change the course of baseball history.
Carl Mays was on the mound for the New York Yankees. Mays threw a fastball as hard as anyone ever had. At the plate stood Ray Chapman the Cleveland Indian shortstop. Ray was a gritty player known for "crowding the plate."
Two other things you should know - it was a dark grey day and at the time the league (thanks to the owners) tended to use the same ball all game (a money saving gesture....imagine greed influencing the game of baseball).
So, as Chapman leaned over the plate, Mays uncorked one of his sizzlers. The ball, dirty, damp and grey, was invisible against the sky and the stands. It struck Ray full speed in the temple. He was killed and became the first and only fatality in professional baseball history.
The investigating team decided that from then on umpires should carry fresh white balls to put into play. Thus the balls, no longer wet or mud-caked, became fresher and livelier. Soon batting averages and RBI's moved up. In fact, a bandy legged ex-pitcher named Babe Ruth began to hit gobs of home runs (until he set a record of 60 in 1927). And, the '20's became the golden age of hitters and sluggers. But none of the record books has an asterisk that says "may owe his fame to Ray Chapman."
Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.