(This is a long post and bit of a tearjerker.) The All-Star Game is here! We begin to transition from baseball to a series on Lake View Cemetery and the folks buried there. Today we begin that transition with baseball great Raymond Johnson Chapman. Chapman was a star shortstop for the Cleveland Indians from 1912 to 1920. He would be fatally injured during a game on the night of April 17, 1920 by New York Yankees pitcher, Carl Mays and later die the next morning. Ray Chapman would be the only major league baseball player to die due to an injury on the field.
The Cleveland News said Ray Chapman was the “greatest shortstop, that is, considering all-around ability, batting, throwing, base-running, bunting, fielding and ground covering ability, to mention nothing of his fight, spirit and conscientiousness, ever to wear a Cleveland uniform.”
Ray was well liked on the field and off. Chapman was a gifted storyteller, played the piano and was known for his great sense of humor. He served in the Naval Auxiliary Reserve. His best friend on the team was Tris Speaker who stood up for him as his best man when he married Kathleen Daly in 1919.
In the fifth inning of the game in New York that night, Chapman went to bat when he was struck in the head by May’s ball. Writer Don Jensen gives us an amazing account of next few moments. “The ball dribbled out toward the pitcher’s mound on the first base side. Mays fielded it and threw it to first baseman Wally Pipp for the out, apparently thinking the ball had struck the bat. Pipp turned to throw the ball around the infield, but froze when he glanced home. Chapman had sunk to his knees, his face contorted, blood streaming from his left ear. Yankee catcher Muddy Ruel tried to catch Chapman as his knees buckled. Umpire Tommy Connolly ran toward the grandstand yelling for a doctor. (Tris) Speaker rushed over from the on-deck circle to tend to his stricken friend, who was trying to sit. Finally, two doctors (one of them a Yankee team physician) arrived, applied ice and revived Chapman. He walked under his own power across the infield toward the clubhouse in center field, but his knees gave way again near second base. Two teammates grabbed the shortstop, put his arms around their shoulders, and carried him the rest of the way.”
Ray would later die at the hospital before his pregnant wife would make it to his side. Chapman’s funeral was held at St. John’s Cathedral in Cleveland and attended by baseball dignitaries and thousands of Indians fans. The team was devastated and lost seven of the next nine games but they would rally and go on to win the World Series defeating Brooklyn that year.
Mays was later quoted as saying “It is an episode which I shall always regret more than anything that has ever happened to me.” Kathleen would would birth to their daughter, Rae-Marie in 1921. Kathleen would die in 1928 from accidentally ingesting poison and Rae-Marie in 1929 of the measles.
Ray Chapman is buried in section 42 of Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.
To learn more about downtown Cleveland, take a walking tour with Tours of Cleveland. See our schedule and book at www.toursofcleveland.com.