Monday, July 13, 2009

Bean Ball

It is not everyday a friend calls you and says "Hey, I have Tiger tickets in a suite..." So, with all tickets accounted for, 18 of us piled into a snazzy room at Comerica Park to watch the Tigers dump the Indians.

While it was certainly wonderful evening with friends, pizza and good beer (Atwater Block Brewery), there was what could have been a scary moment. Early in the game (3rd or 4th inning?), with a Tiger at the plate (I am not sure who the player was; I suspect we could look it up online somewhere) the ball came screaming toward the plate a bit, um, "inside". So "inside", in fact, that it struck the batter. I think it may have hit him around the bicep or upper chest. I happened to hit the shutter button on my little pocket digital camera at the right moment, and lo and behold, the ball is blur as it came hurtling at him. I added the red arrow so you can see on my picture. What crazy timing on my part, huh?

So, how scary is it when a player gets beaned? With little snooping online, I actually discovered that a player died when he got smacked in the head with what may have been an intentionally aimed spitball. Notorius head-hunter and first-class ass Carl Mays of the New York Yankees literally killed lovable, hugable Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians in 1920. At the time, it was the pitcher's job to scuff up, dirty, ding, spindle, and basically mutilate the ball over the course of the game. By the time Chapman got to the plate in the 5th inning (at twilight), the ball was so dirty he likely never saw it coming. Witnesses said he didn't even flinch. 12 hours later, he was dead from a fractured skull.

The spitball was banned from the game at the end of the 1920 season partially as a result of the Chapman death. Ever notice that when the ball gets even slightly scuffed, the umpire swaps it out for a new one? That practice is directly related to the "accident". Helmets, believe it or not, where still not required for another few decades.

Mays went on to be even more hated. Doing stupid things like beaning people in the crowd (!) and possibly "throwing" (intentionally losing) a World Series Game in 1921 (a few short years after the Black Sox scandel) contributed to his early retirement. While, by all accounts, he was an excellent pitcher (and batter), he was never selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame even though others with less spectacular careers were voted in. That bothered him up until the day he died in 1971.

I suspect Ray Chapman is content.

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