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1930s & Earlier / Ray Chapman Tragedy
On August 16, 1920, Ray Chapman, the Cleveland Indians second baseman, became the only fatality in the history of major league baseball. Chapman died as a result of being hit in the head by a pitch thrown by New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays. Chapman batted in an exaggerated crouch, so Mays' pitch was just barely out of the strike zone. Chapman died of a severe skull fracture about 12 hours after the mishap. Mays voluntarily turned himself into police and was quickly exonerated of all blame. Chapman's death prompted major league baseball to institute a policy that required soiled or damaged balls to be replaced by spotless white ones so batters could better see pitches. The days of the 'dead ball' and overwhelmingly dominant pitchers were over.