Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    1920 Cleveland Indians Team Signed Petition Boycotting Pitcher Carl Mays After Ray Chapman Fatal Beaning.

    "It is the duty of all of us," said [Tris] Speaker, "of all the players, not only for the good of the game, but also out of respect to the poor fellow who was killed, to suppress all bitter feeling."

    --The New York Times, August 17, 1920

    The Hall of Fame player/manager of the Cleveland Indians stood alone. Though Carl Mays had voluntarily appeared before the Assistant District Attorney of New York City, and was exonerated of all blame, the bereaved Cleveland squad remained unconvinced, well aware of the Yankee pitcher's reputation for bean balls long before the tragedy at the Polo Grounds robbed them of their star shortstop and widowed Chapman's young bride.

    Mays was already one of the most unpopular players in the Majors when he delivered his murderous fastball, disliked even by his own teammates. "When I first broke into baseball, I discovered that there seemed to be a feeling against me," he once said. " I always have wondered why I have encountered this antipathy from so many people where I have been." His manager at the time of the beaning, Miller Huggins, stood as one of Mays' many detractors. "Any ballplayers that played for me on either the Cardinals or the Yankees could come to me if he were in need and I would give him a helping hand. I made only two exceptions, Carl Mays and Joe Bush. If they were in a gutter, I'd kick them."

    Those on hand to witness the tragic event at the Polo Grounds on August 16, 1920 were uniform in their contention that Chapman had frozen in the path of the tailing fastball, surmising that he hadn't even seen the pitch and thus failed to react until the loud crack of the ball hitting his skull echoed through the cavernous ballpark. Mays stood briefly, then crumpled. He was helped off the field but collapsed in the clubhouse, never to regain consciousness. Examination revealed a depressed fracture in Chapman's skull three and a half inches long. Doctors worked quickly to relieve the swelling of the fallen Indian's brain, but to no avail. Chapman passed away at 4:40 the next morning.

    Mays was forced into hiding for a week as death threats flooded the Yankees mailroom. American League President Ban Johnson's office received petitions from the Red Sox, Tigers and Browns demanding that Mays be banished from baseball. But none was more important or historic than the presented example, autographed by each member of the eventual 1920 World Champions except for Tris Speaker, who bravely defended his assessment that the fatal blow had been nothing more than a terrible accident. The cover letter reads:

    Boston, August 24, 1920

    Mr. B.B. Johnson, Pres. American League

    Dear Sir,

    Enclosed you will please find petition, signed by the members of the Cleveland Base Ball Club. Whatever action you intend to take in this matter, we will be pleased to hear from you by return mail.


    The petition itself:

    WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, members of the Cleveland Base Ball Club, have resolved to take no part in any ball game in which Mr. Carl Mays shall take part.

    We will also back and similar action taken by the members of any other American League Club.

    A copy of this action is being sent to the players of every club, also a copy to Mr. B.B. Johnson.

    Signed [autographs]: Joe Evans, Ray Caldwell, George Burns, C.D. Thomas, Guy Morton, Wm. Wambsganss, Harry Lunte, Elmer J. Smith, J.C. Bagby, Chas. Jamieson, Joe Wood, L.G. Nunamaker, John G. Graney, G.R. Ellison, W.R. Johnston, Jack McCallister, Stanley A. Coveleski, Robt. W. Clark, W.L. Gardner, Steve O'Neill.

    Signatures rate a consistent 8/10. Pages exhibit original storage folds and pin holes at upper left, otherwise no issues of note. A truly extraordinary document from the darkest day in Major League baseball history. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.

    View all of [The Seth Swirsky Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2012
    3rd-5th Thursday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,339

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Sold on May 5, 2012 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 18 days left to consign to the 2021 August 21 - 22 Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction!

    Learn about consigning with us

    I want to again thank you for a job well done. Your professionalism prevailed through out the process for which I am so grateful.
    Jerry D.,
    New Ulm, MN
    View More Testimonials

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search