One hundred years ago Tuesday, Cleveland Indians’ shortstop Ray Chapman was struck in the head by a pitch thrown by Carl Mays of the New York Yankees. Chapman would die 12 hours later in hospital, and is considered the only player to ever die directly from injuries received in a MLB game. There’s now an upcoming War on the Diamond documentary on Chapman’s death and the Cleveland-New York baseball rivalry it kicked off, directed by Andy Billman (known for directing 30 for 30 installment Believeland and SEC Storied installment The Stars Are Aligned, plus producing a lot of 30 for 30 installments), and based on the book The Pitch That Killed by Mike Sowell. War on the Diamond will premiere on streaming/cable/satellite video-on-demand services on Nov. 15, and there’s now a trailer out for it to commemorate that 100th anniversary:
Here’s more on what to expect from this documentary from a release:
One of baseball’s greatest tragedies–the hit-by-pitch death of Ray Chapman–makes its feature documentary debut with the premiere of War on the Diamond on Tuesday, Nov. 15 on iTunes/Apple, Amazon, Google, Vudu, YouTube, Microsoft and cable and satellite VOD platforms everywhere.
Directed and produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Andy Billman (“Believeland,” “Winning Time”) and based on Mike Sowell’s award-winning book “The Pitch That Killed,” the documentary covers the only player to MLB history to die from being hit by a pitch: Cleveland Indian Ray Chapman who was beaned in the head by New York Yankee pitcher Carl Mays in 1920; and the subsequent 100-year, often one-sided rivalry between the two teams.
…Featuring never-before-heard footage of Mays unapologetically discussing the incident and a star-studded line-up of interviewees including historians and former players, War on the Diamond dives into the deep-seated emotional rivalry between the Indians and Yankees.
Highlights include the teams’ codominance post WWII, George Steinbrenner’s failed attempt to buy the Indians, Abbott’s no-hitter, the 1997 & 1998 playoff battles, the infamous 2007 “bug” game and more – as told by guests like Jim Abbott, Sandy Alomar, Jr., Marty Appel, Mandy Bell, Sherrod Brown – U.S. Senator, (D-OH), Craig Carton, Kenny Lofton, Terry Francona, Bob Feller, Jim Leyritz, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Andre Thornton, Tom Verducci, and Lesley Visser.
A SABR Bio Project article from Don Jensen has more on Chapman:
Ray Chapman, star shortstop for nine seasons with the Cleveland Indians, might have ended up in the Hall of Fame had he not been fatally injured by a Carl Mays fastball on August 16, 1920, at the Polo Grounds. An ideal number two hitter who crowded the plate, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Chapman led the league in sacrifice hits three times. His total of 67 sacrifices in 1917 is a major league record, and he stands in sixth place on the all-time career list with 334. Chapman was also a legitimate offensive force in his own right: the right-handed batter led Cleveland in runs scored three times during his career, and paced the entire American League in runs and walks in 1918, with 84 of each. He also led the Indians in stolen bases five times, and his 52 thefts in 1917 remained the franchise record until 1980.
In addition to his offensive skills, Chapman was also an excellent fielder who led the American League in putouts three times and assists once. Put it all together, and Chapman was, in the view of the Cleveland News, 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.”
As good as Chapman was on the field, he was even more beloved for his infectious cheerfulness and enthusiasm off it. One of the most popular players in Cleveland Indians history, Chapman was a gifted storyteller who played the piano and once won an amateur singing contest. The good-humored shortstop also had a wide circle of admirers outside the game — his show business friends included Al Jolson, William S. Hart and Will Rogers. One newspaper described Chapman as a man who “was as much at home in the ballroom as on the ball diamond.” His tragic death in 1920 sparked one of the largest spontaneous outpourings of grief in Cleveland history.
War on the Diamond is produced by Billman, Art Horan, Danielle Alberico and Pamela Lynn Sullivan, with executive producers including Eric and Denise Lipar, Sean and Tracey O’Neal, and Chris and Kathy Croom. It’s edited by Paul Carruthers, with cinematography from Jonathan Taylor Hurley. This will be one to keep an eye on this fall for those interested in baseball history.
[War on the Diamond on YouTube]