by Frank Hyde
August 9, 1945
Part 6 of 7
Caldwell Recalls Chapman's Death
His no-no, dished up at New York on September 10, 1919, the first game of a doubleheader, was one of the three no-hitters ever hurled at the Yanks. The first one was by Cy Young on June 30, 1908 against the old Highlanders, and George Foster duplicated the feat on June 21, 1916.
One might say Foster and Caldwell were the only hurlers to efface the modern Yanks in such formidable style, for the Highlanders of 1908, against which grand old Cy Young performed, were one of the weakest outfits in the American League, as we have pointed out elsewhere in this series of articles.
The Yanks, you'll remember, sold Caldwell to the Boston Red Sox in the spring of '19, and after a short term with the Beantowners, Ray was moved to Cleveland in August on a cash and player deal.
First Start Against Yanks
Less than two months later, Cleveland moved into New York for a five-game stand against the Yanks. "Manager Tris Speaker called me over that morning," Ray relates, "and said, 'Do you want these guys today?' I was especially anxious to start against my old teammates and said so.
"It wasn't until the end of the seventh that I realized six more outs would give me a no-hit game. Up to that time, (Truck) Hannah, one of the Yankees' weakest hitters, had walked twice and (Frank) Baker made first on an error. No one had reached second.
"In the eighth it looked like curtains for my no-no. Baker got a hold of one and lined it to third where Larry (Gardner) made a great knock-down, scooped up the ball and fired to first for the out by an eyelash. After that, I retired 'em in order.
The year of 1920 marked many changes in the fast-growing major league picture and Caldwell, still sound as a dollar and able to do his own bouncing at his Onoville tavern if the need arises, was swept along a turbulent trail that saw him win 20 and lose 10 for the ultimate world champion Indians, yet to be shunted down to the minors that autumn.
Ray Chapman, Cleveland shortstop, the only fatality in the long history of organized ball, was killed on August 16 when hit in the head by one of Carl Mays' fast balls.
"We were right in the middle of the pennant fight when Ray was fatally injured," Caldwell explained recently. "I pitched the next day after his death and won. We felt like we owed it to him to come through and from then on until the Indians clinched the pennant on September 24 we were an inspired ball club."
Much ado was made about the bean ball following Chapman's death, but Caldwell debunks it all 25 years after the accident.
"I can see how it could happen, all right," he pointed out to this writer. "Chapman used to crowd the plate and once whiffed away by an inside pitch would crowd right back in. He was a dangerous hitter and crowding was part of his stance. Mays, one of the most highly regarded men in baseball, simply lost control of one of his fast balls and it struck Ray in the head."
Many Changes in American
Hughey Jennings quit as manger of the Detroit Tigers as the 1920 season was squaring away and Ty Cobb, the old Georgia Peach, moved into the driver's seat. Ed Barrow walked out on the Boston Red Sox and went into the Yankees' head office as business manger with Hugh Duffey, former bossman of the Bosox and Phillies, succeeding him. Washington's Clark Griffith retired to the Senator's head office to resume his baseball career as an executive.
The American League race developed into a three-team fight in July with Cleveland, Chicago and New York almost neck and neck to the barrier.
Jim Bagby led the Indians' hurling staff with 31-12, one of the greatest hurling records of all time, followed by Stanley Coveleskie with 24-14 and Caldwell with 20-10.
Babe Ruth hit 54 homers that year, getting his 48th off Caldwell at Cleveland on September 11, 1920. Walter Johnson of the Senators hurled his first no-hit, no-run game against the Red Sox, Ray's former mates, with only one man getting on base against the Big Train and that was via an error.
Another highlight of the 1920 season was the Chicago grand jury convening to hear the cases of Happy Felsch, Buck Weaver, Chick Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson and other players involved in the infamous Black Sox scandal of the year before.
The pennant race of 1920 was a thrilling struggle, second in drama and color only to the Cleveland-Brooklyn World Series of that autumn, and no baseball chronology of that time would be complete without a brief description of that classic, which we will present in another installment very shortly. However, it might be well to pick up a few loose ends of baseball history during the years Caldwell was in the big show.
Giants Again in '13
The year of 1913 saw the Giants, who had lost to the Athletics in 1911 and the Red Sox in 1912, repeat as champions of the National League and fall again before Connie Mack's great Athletics, four games to one... Kaiser Wilhelm's hordes were on the march in Europe and World War I was on the way... Walter Johnson, the old "Big Train" of the Washington Senators, had one of his greatest years, hurling 36 victories against only seven losses and firing the Nats into second in the American... A newcomer to the A's was causing Mack to scratch his head - his name was Herb Pennock... Jim Thorpe, the peerless Indian athlete who had been a one-man show at the Olympics of 1912, had played in 19 games for the Giants... The year was historical, too, in that it marked one of the few times the Phillies ever finished out of the second division. They came in second to the McGrawmen.
"Miracle" Braves of '14
Skipping along the major league scene that formed a background to Caldwell's colorful career, one finds the "Miracle" Braves of 1914, managed by George Stallings, Ray's old bossman of his early days with the Highlanders, sweeping to the National League pennant with a sensational last-half drive that carried them from the basement after July 4. Philadelphia bowed to the ramapaging Braves in four straight in the fall classic that year.
Baseball warfare with the Federal League; the United States squabbling with Mexico and a general depression hurt the game in 1915, but the Boston Red Sox displaced the Boston Braves as world champions, downing the Philadelphia Phils, who had won their first and only National League pennant.
With Babe Ruth starring as a pitcher, the Red Sox won the American League flag and World Series playoff in 1916, beating Brooklyn, also appearing in the fall show for the first time, four games to one.