Steven King at game 1 of the ALCS...perhaps looking for eerie movie material?
Raymond Johnson Chapman
On August 16th, 1920, the Cleveland Naps (as they were known then) were playing the New York Yankees at the Polo Grounds. Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman came to the plate against pitcher Carl Mays. Back then, pitchers would "dirty-up" a new ball so that it was not as easy to see and hit. Sometimes they would rub dirt on them, tobacco juice, or licorice juice. Also, baseballs were not replaced nearly as often as they are today so a ball could get pretty discolored during the course of a game. Pitcher Mays threw the ball and it struck Chapman in the head. The sound of the ball hitting Chapman's head was so loud that Mays thought it hit Chapman's bat and he fielded the ball and threw it to first base. Chapman was taken off the field and he died the next day in a New York hospital. As a result, doctoring the ball, including with spit, was outlawed at the start of the next season. It took some 30+ years before batting helmets became mandatory. The Cleveland Naps dedicated the season to their fallen hero. They wore black arm bands in his honor and, led by their manager Tris Speaker, they won the Pennant and the World Series that year.Ray Chapman was buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland. A plaque was erected in his honor at the field that Cleveland played at, League Park.
When Cleveland moved into Municipal Stadium in the mid 30's, the plaque was taken with them and displayed at the new stadium. It is not clear why, but the plaque was removed, possibly for renovations and then it was misplaced. In February of this season, the plaque was discovered packed away in a box from the old stadium and moved to Jacobs Field when it opened in 1994. The team was in the process of building Heritage Park at Jacobs Field this year, a hall of fame for the team. Ray Chapman's plaque was refurbished and placed prominently in Heritage Park.
Since then, the Cleveland Indians have experienced many fortunes this season, tying Boston for the best record in baseball. On this year's anniversary of the death of Ray Chapman, August 17th, the Cleveland Indians took over sole possession of first place in the American League Central Division for good.
People visiting Lakeview Cemetery inquire about the old fashioned baseball memorabilia that adorns Chapman's grave. Caretakers hesitate to comment because they do not know how it gets there. One caretaker willing to comment said, "We see no one bring the stuff in or place it there, but there it is!"
Is Ray Chapman aiding his old team?
No one can say for sure but, Jobu, Sister Dulce, Ray Chapman, Sister Assumpta, etc., we'll take all the help we can get!