Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,084

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,084


This is the grave of Ray Chapman.

Born in Beaver Dam, Kentucky in 1891, Chapman was an outstanding baseball player and so became a star in Herrin, Illinois, where his family moved when he was a child. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians and first made the majors in 1912. He was a very strong shortstop. He was a genuine master of the sacrifice, which you don’t see much anymore. I often feel it is bad strategy to give up outs and that seems to be a lot closer to consensus today. But at the time, managers gave up outs all the time and no one could do it better than Chapman, who led the league was a ridiculous 45 sacrifices in his second year of 1913 and then topped that in 1917 with 67, which means he was sacrificing in every tenth plate appearance.

But Chapman could do other things than bunt for an out well. He was a very good base stealer and set the team record with 52 in 1917. In 1918, he led the league in both runs and walks, with 84 a piece. Seems low for both. He remained a very solid player through the 1920 season and actually set a career high for his OPS that year. Admittedly that was only .803, but still he did what he was supposed to do and he did it well. Seems to have been only an average defensive player for an infielder, but he was good enough to play.

Then, on August 16, 1920, the Yankees pitcher Carl Mays hit Chapman squarely in the head with a fastball. This led to the first and only onfield death in MLB history. He was instantly bleeding from his head and the pitch had broken his skull. Evidently, he just didn’t see it at all. Mays was a submarine guy, it was a little foggy, and Chapman just flat did not pick up the pitch and so he didn’t move. Mays was a massive asshole and basically didn’t care. He said Chapman shouldn’t have crowded the plate. Ty Cobb called for pitchers to routinely hit Mays in the head until he was forced out of the game. That didn’t happen, but Chapman was dead, at the age of 29.

Ray Chapman is buried in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.

If you would like this series to visit other shortstops, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Despite his abbreviated career, Baseball Reference’s JAWS metric has Chapman as the 73rd best shortstop of all time. For modern context, this puts his squarely between #72 Marcus Semian and #74 Elvis Andrus. Marty Marion, at #69 and the 1944 MVP for the Cardinals, is in St. Louis and Buck Herzog, who played mostly for the Giants in the teens and is #77 is in Denton, Maryland. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar
Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views :