1920 Cleveland Indians Team Signed Petition Boyc
"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
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.
MEMBERS OF THE CLEVELAND BASE BALL CLUB.
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.