Ray Chapman (January 15, 1891-August 17, 1920) was a shortstop for the American League Cleveland team, known as the Naps from 1912-1914 and Indians from 1915-1920. Chapman was born in Beaver Dam, Kentucky. To date, he is the only Major League Baseball player to have been killed in a game. His death helped to outlaw the spitball, and was also one of the examples used to emphasize the need for wearing batting helmets, although the rule was not adopted until years later.
Chapman was struck by a pitch August 16, 1920 in a game against the New York Yankees following a pitch from Carl Mays. The sound of the ball crashing into Chapman's skull was so loud that Mays thought it hit his bat, fielded the ball, and threw to first base. Chapman died twelve hours later in a New York City hospital. Ironically, under modern rules, Chapman's death would not have counted as a hit batsman, because he made no effort to evade the ball that killed him.
In tribute to Chapman's memory, Cleveland players wore black arm bands, with manager Tris Speaker leading the team to win both the pennant and the first World Championship in the history of the club. Rookie Joe Sewell took Chapman's place at shortstop, and went on to have a Hall of Fame career.
Chapman led the American League in runs scored and walks in 1918. A top-notch bunter, Chapman is 6th on the all-time list for sacrifice hits. Only Stuffy McInnis has more sacrifices for right-handed batters. Chapman was also an excellent shortstop who lead the league in putouts three times and assists once. He batted .300 three times, led the Indians in stolen bases four times, and set a team record of 52 stolen bases which stood from 1917 to 1980. He was hitting .303 with 97 runs when he died.
The book The Pitch That Killed, by Mike Sowell, is a history of the Chapman-Mays tragedy.
Ray Chapman is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.