The Incident

     Monday, August 16th, 1920 was a typical sweltering summer day in New York. As the Yankees and Indians prepared to clash with each other at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, both teams were in desperate need of wins. It was an overcast day, with the field conditions being on the wet side as a result of high humidity and rain.
Starting pitchers would be Stan Coveleski for Cleveland, who was having a terrific year vs. the surly Carl Mays, who was going for his 100th win that afternoon. Mays' battery mate would be Muddy Ruel. The two-man umpire unit was led by Tommy Connolly. Attendance was about 22,000.

     The Indians opened the scoring in the second inning on a home run to left by Catcher Steve O'Neil. The Yankees on the other hand were having major problems with spit baller Coveleski. In the 4th inning Cleveland logged in with two more runs, one when Ruel dropped the ball on a play at the plate, and a sac-fly by Coveleski.

     Then came the fateful fifth inning. Chapman led off. To this point he was 0 for 1 with a sacrifice bunt in the first inning. He had popped-up to Wally Pipp in the third. Chapman stepped in against Mays. Chapman's crouching stance was the kind that crowded the plate and annoyed pitchers like Mays. Chapman though had never ever hit Mays well.
The count ran to a ball and a strike......Mays then let loose with a high inside fastball!
The ball sailed directly toward Chapman's head. Instead of ducking, Chapman remained in his crouch-- he seemed to be almost transfixed by the ball. The ball hit Chapman flush on the left side of the head above the ear.

     The recoil from the ball striking Chapman's skull made it seem like it had hit the bat. The ball actually rolled back toward the mound, and Mays, thinking that it had hit Chapman's bat, threw the ball to first base. Chapman got up, took two staggering steps down the first base line then crumpled to a heap on the ground. Umpire Connolly noticed that blood was flowing out of the Clevelander's right ear and immediately ran to the stands and began shouting for a doctor. Tris Speaker who had been on-deck rushed to his friend's side, as did the whole Cleveland club and a good majority of the Yankees. The whole time, Mays stayed on the mound.

     "Chappie" was conscious but unstable. He tried to speak but no words came out of his mouth. He struggled to his feet and attempted to walk back toward the clubhouse, which in the Polo Grounds was located in straight away centerfield. A long walk for the injured Chapman. Just before "Chappie" reached second base he collapsed. He was then carried off the field.
In the visitor's clubhouse, Chapman was not doing well at all, and an ambulance was summoned. Chapman attempted to put a few words together. "I'm all right; tell Mays not to worry." He also kept mumbling for "ring....Katie's ring," in reference to his wedding band. The trainer retrieved the ring and put it in his hand. From all accounts of those present, it seemed to bring Ray some solace before he lapsed into a coma.

     In the meantime, the game continued. Mays asked for a new ball before he pitched to Speaker, the next batter up. New York continued to struggle against Coveleski! Huggins pinch hit Sammy Vick for Mays in the bottom of the eighth inning. Vick singled. The Yanks finally got to Coveleski in the bottom of the ninth scoring three runs but it was a case of too little too late.

     Chapman was rushed to St. Lawrence hospital in Manhattan. His condition continued to deteriorate. Speaker had spoken by telephone with Katie to inform her of the accident. She then immediately boarded a train for New York to be with her ailing husband. At around 10 PM, as Chapman continued to grow worse, a decision was finally made to operate. The procedure was performed by Dr. T.M. Merrigan. The operation began at 12:30 AM and lasted just a little over an hour. A three-and-a-half inch piece of skull was removed from Chapman's left side. It was found that he had injuries to both sides of the brain. There was also severe blood clotting and damage to his sinuses. The outlook was not good.

     His teammates and many Yankee players were at the hospital waiting it out. They went back to their hotel rooms with a promise of hope, because they had received the good news that his breathing and pulse had improved.
It was a false hope though. His condition started to go downhill again after 3 AM. Raymond Johnson Chapman breathed his last breath at 4:40 AM, on August 17th, 1920. He was only 31 years old.

     His wife arrived in New York at 10 that morning. She was met at the station by a priest friend of Ray's from Philadelphia. From there they went to the Ansonia Hotel where Tris Speaker was waiting (the Ansonia Hotel was the same hotel that the plot for throwing the 1919 World Series was hatched). When he broke the news to her, she fainted. Oh yes, we forgot to mention that Katie Chapman was also pregnant, so there was some major concern over her condition.