Halloween may bring sights and stories of ghosts and goblins, but one kind of MLB play provides real fear for players and fans alike. A bean ball is a pitch thrown at a player's head. Even with today's batting helmets, a 100 mile per hour fastball hitting someone in the head or face can end a career, or even a life.
Here's a look at the five scariest bean balls in MLB:
Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman dies after being hit in the head by a pitch (August 16, 1920) - I think this moment is truly the scariest play in baseball history, the only time a player has died as a result of being hit by a pitch. Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays at the Polo Grounds, the Yankees' ballpark at the time. Chapman was hit in the head, taken to the hospital, and then passed away the next day after an operation to try to repair the severe damage. This was before players wore batting helmets, which were only made mandatory in 1971. In 1941, the Brooklyn Dodgers were the first team to use them.
New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza beaned by Roger Clemens (July 8, 2000) - I remember watching this scary play as it happened. I do believe New York Yankees pitcher Clemens was throwing at his head for revenge as Piazza had already knocked a grand slam off Clemens that season. The pitch knocked out Piazza, put him in the hospital, and caused him to miss the All-Star game.
Minnesota Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett hit in the face, breaks jaw (September 28, 1995) - This scary moment happened In a game against the Cleveland Indians. Puckett was hit in the face by a pitch thrown by Dennis Martinez. After the hit, Puckett went to the hospital with loose teeth and a broken jaw; he missed the last week of the 1995 season. A short time after being hit, Puckett was diagnosed with glaucoma and had to retire. The Hall of Famer (who sadly died in 2006 at the age of 45) was a 10-time All-Star who won two World Series rings with the Twins.
Detroit Tigers catcher Mickey Cochrane hit in the head, ending his career (May 25, 1937) - Cochrane was hit in the head by a pitch thrown by Bump Hadley of the New York Yankees. After his beaning, he was unconscious for 10 days and would never play again. Before the incident, this future Hall of Famer hit 23 home runs and posted 112 RBIs in 1932; he won three World Series titles with the then-Philadelphia Athletics and the Detroit Tigers in his career.
Boston Red Sox right fielder Tony Conigliaro hit in face by a pitch (August 18, 1967) - Conigliaro was hit in the face with a fastball thrown by California Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton, ending his season and causing him to miss the entire 1968 season as well. Conigliaro would go on to play another four years in the majors and even exceeded some of his pre-injury stats. There is a Sports Illustrated cover that graphically shows the injury.
Freddy Sherman grew up in Philadelphia, which didn't make being a Los Angeles Dodgers fan easy. He has lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, now able to follow the Dodgers openly and attends games frequently. You can follow him on Twitter -@thefredsherman.
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