In the meantime, Chapman's
body was taken to a New York funeral home where a viewing was held later in
the day. Both teams and many fans walked past the bier in tears. One writer
mentioned that there was not a dry eye in the house. Mays though, had not gone.
He went into seclusion. Mays: "I knew that the sight of his silent form
would haunt me as long as I live."
The game scheduled for the 17th was canceled as Chapman's body was brought back to Cleveland for burial. Flags were ordered at half staff at all Major League ballparks. Before the funeral service in Cleveland, which both teams again attended (except for Mays), Tris Speaker collapsed and suffered a nervous breakdown while he was visiting Katie's parents' house. He never attended the service. Jack Graney, Chapman's roommate became so hysterical he had to be restrained. "Chappie" was finally laid to rest at the Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.
That's not the end of the story though. Players from American League clubs, such as the Browns, Tigers, White and Red Sox and Washington seriously thought about boycotting games that Mays pitched in. Ty Cobb, not the most well liked person, was one of the most vocal opponents of Mays. "That Mays has been pitching like that since he came into the league.....something has to be done now.....he killed a great little guy and a wonderful ballplayer....give the man a taste of his own medicine I say." It should be noted again that the "Peach" was very friendly with "Chappie," genuinely liking and respecting the scrappy little ballplayer for his integrity and good nature as well as the way he played the game. It probably helped that Chapman was a fellow Southerner too.
The Cleveland Press called for the banishment of Mays from baseball. Rumors were spreading of "bad blood" between Chapman and Mays, although there is no real proof to that. Cooler heads were attempting to prevail though. Tris Speaker came out with a statement saying that there would be "no ill will" toward the pitcher, and that his team considered it an accident.
Mays decided to go on the offensive. He blamed the umpire, Tommy Connolly, for the tragedy, claiming that there was a rough spot on the ball and that it should have been thrown out of the game. This outraged umps in both leagues who threatened legal action. They maintained that Mays routinely dragged baseballs across the pitching rubber to roughen up the surface. No one ever found the ball that hit Chapman in the head. It was thrown out of the game and never recovered. Officials in both leagues ordered that a new, fresh baseball be put into play every time one became scuffed. Mays incensed more people when he blamed Chapman for the accident more or less.
Carl Mays: "It was a fast ball. I knew it would be high and tight and I expected that he would drop as the others do when pitchers swing them in close to drive batters away from the plate....... instead he ducked and the ball hit him."
Mays' "blaming" of Chapman for the incident incensed the players around the league even more. The Indians were a very demoralized club when they left New York, though they still stayed close to Chicago. In order to fill the void left by Chapman's demise, they brought in future Hall Of Famer Joe Sewell to play shortstop. Sewell's play at short and hitting helped solidify the infield. By early September they had taken over first place and won the pennant in the last week of the season. Their win over the Brooklyn Robins in the World Series was bittersweet. They had achieved the goal their fallen comrade had so much wanted. In the Cleveland clubhouse after the final Series game, many players had tears in their eyes.
Carl Mays eventually had
his greatest season the next year going 27-9 to help lead the Yankees to their
first AL pennant. Scandal followed Mays into the World Series against the Giants.
After pitching a five-hit shutout in game one, Mays took a 2-0 lead into the
eighth inning of game four when he suddenly gave up four hits and three runs,
the Yankees losing the game 4-2.
After the game, New York sportswriter Fred Lieb was contacted by a man who "spilled the beans" on Mays, claiming that Mays had been offered "a substantial sum in cash" if he lost the game. He further explained that Mays' wife was to have flashed a signal to him at the start of the eighth inning....she would wipe her face with a white handkerchief to indicate that she received the money. Lieb took this story to the Commissioner's office where it was investigated.
Eventually, Mays was exonerated of any wrongdoing by a detective agency hired by K.M. Landis. Mays also lost game seven of the Series and lost his only start in the 1922 Series as well. He had fallen out of favor with his teammates and Miller Huggins by the time the '23 season rolled around and didn't even appear in the World Series that year. He finally was waived to Cincinnati where he had a 20-9 season. Years later Lieb revealed that Huggins and the Yankees part-owner, Col. "Cap" Houston, had told him that they both thought Mays had thrown games in the '21 and '22 World Series.
Chapman's widow Katie was another tragic player in this story. She gave birth to a baby girl, Rae, in early 1922, six months after the child's father had died. Katie remarried and moved to California. Still suffering from bouts of depression because of her beloved Ray's death, she eventually committed suicide by drinking cleaning fluid in 1926. Rae Chapman stayed in California with her stepfather and died from the the measles in 1928. Both mother and daughter were taken back to Cleveland for burial.
Mays' wife could not apparently shake the bad luck coattails of her husband. She died as a result of complications from an eye infection at the age of thirty-six. Of the players involved in the incident, Carl Mays was the one who lived the longest. He ended his career with the Giants in 1929 and spent 20 years as a major league scout. He died on April 4th, 1971. To his dying day he insisted that he did not throw at Chapman and that it never weighed heavily on his mind.
Did Mays throw at Chapman?
In my opinion, no! It would have been a bad move for Mays to throw at a speedy
hitter leading-off an inning with his team already down 4-0. As has been stated
already, this was a very crucial series for both teams. The chance to win a
pennant and get to the World Series was always the goal of any player. In the
days before big money contracts, the extra bonus money a player made from getting
into the Series was very important to a player's overall income. Mays knew this;
he had been to the big show with the Red Sox. He had a wife and two children
to feed. Sure, pitching inside was how he was most effective as a pitcher. But
that did not mean that Mays would be stupid enough to intentionally do what
he did. It just wouldn't make sense.
Was the Mays Chapman/Incident something that was inevitable or was it just a freak accident? Many players before and since have been severely beaned. Players like Joe Medwick and Tony Conigliaro are classic examples. Several minor leaguers have died from beanings. No, the Chapman beaning didn't have to happen. If "Chappie" hadn't froze, he probably would have got hit on the shoulder, or the ball would have missed him entirely. If this had happened today, with the advent of the batting helmet, any injury would have been minimal. And of course, we should remember, it was 1920 when this happened. Even though it's unfair to compare medical treatment of 1920 with today's medical advances, it would be like night and day. A friend of mine who is a surgeon in Florida assured me that if an accident like that happened today, the chances of a player dying would be less than 20 percent.
So there you have it. The next time you see beanball fights and bench-clearing brawls on Sports Center, remember one thing...that a baseball thrown at over ninety miles an hour is a deadly weapon. An important part of baseball is keeping a player honest, by pitching inside, but there is a difference between pitching inside and being a "head hunter" and intentionally throwing at a player. I'm sure that if Ray Chapman were alive today he could attest to that. The Mays/Chapman Incident will go down as the most tragic on-field event in baseball history. Let's just hope that it never happens again.