Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman remains the only Major Leaguer to die from injuries sustained during a game, the result of being hit in head by a pitcher from Carl Mays, then with the New York Yankees, on August 17, 1920. (It should be noted that some consider the death of “Doc” Powers — a catcher for the Philadelphia A’s who died in 1909 from surgical complications two weeks after crashing into a wall chasing down a pop foul — the first on-field demise.)
Mike Sowell published The Pitch That Killed in 1989. His telling of the Chapman-Mays affair won the CASEY award from Spitball Magazine and was cited by The New York Times as one of its “Notable Books” of the year.
Last year, Molly Lawless — an illustrator, comic artist, and avid doodler, as she describes herself on her blog — released Hit By Pitch: Ray Chapman, Carl Mays and the Fatal Fastball, published by McFarland.
In her first full-length graphic book, she shows her love for the “dead ball” period and she expounds on the tragic tale of what might be simplistically described by good versus evil: Chapman was a beloved figured and Mays was, well, not.
I spoke with Molly Lawless recently about her recent project.