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Baseballs aren’t very heavy. Most are about 6-ounces. They are pretty small too. They are nice and innocent when you are just holding one. However, when that ball is launched towards you at 80-100mph, it becomes a whole different beast. A potentially deadly one. Let our experts explain.
So, can a baseball kill you? Yes. It can. Due to all of the protective gear that people wear nowadays, the risk is pretty low. However, if a ball hits somebody on the head or the throat without that protection, then they could potentially die. It has happened before, and while it is unlikely to ever happen again on the professional circuit, it could feasibly happen in amateur baseball.
Let our experts explain everything that you need to know about baseballs, and how potentially dangerous they can be when you are playing the game.
Can a Baseball Kill You?
Yes. Baseballs, launched at the average pitching speed, could potentially kill you.
We do want to stress that the risk of being killed by a baseball are slim to none. It just doesn’t happen in the modern game. Somebody would have to be willingly trying to hurt you for the risk to even be there.
Your head and your throat are the most sensitive part of your body when confronted with a speeding baseball. If that baseball hits your head, then it could cause death or brain damage. If it hits your throat, then it will potentially crush the throat which can cause breathing failure. Thankfully, the risk of either of these body parts being hit is slim due to the addition of a few rules.
The first is all about protection. The batter needs to be wearing protection, particularly around their head. Sure. A baseball, if thrown fast enough, could still severely injure a player even if they are wearing a batting helmet, but the risk is still low.
Of course, pitchers are only allowed to aim in a certain position. There is no need for them to be throwing the ball as high as a head. There is no sense in it. So, batters probably do not have to worry about the ball going anywhere near their head unless the batter is either abysmal at throwing (unlikely) or the ball has gone off course, although as you will see from the next section, the risk of that is minimal.
Has Anybody in the MLB Ever Been Killed By a Baseball?
Only once. In 1920.
Raymond Johnston Chapman was playing for the New York Yankees when a submarine pitch from Carl Mays hit him square on the head. While he was conscious when he left the field, he died 12-hours later in hospital from severe brain damage.
There were several factors that led to his death. One issue was the fact that the stadium wasn’t properly lit. This meant that he couldn’t properly see the baseball coming towards him. In fact, many people who were there that day claim that Raymond Chapman never even reacted to the ball. He never knew that it was coming at him.
The second is due to something known as a spitball. Back in the 1920s, it was common for pitchers to scuff up the balls a little bit. One common tactic was to smear chewed tobacco over the ball. The purpose was to help make the ball behave a little bit more erratically when it was flying through the air. This would make it harder for the pitcher to hit.
The spitballs had a major problem, though. Obviously, the pitcher not being able to predict where the ball was heading was an issue in itself. However, there was also the issue of the balls not being changed enough. The balls throughout the game would start to wear down quite a bit. This means that as time went on, the ball became harder and harder too. White is a good color for people to see when a ball is being pitched, but a dirty, smeared ball, some of which had been sandpapered down, wasn’t.
Immediately after this death, the MLB tried to implement rules that would ban spitballs. This was a very gradual process. Most spitballs were banned from the 1920 season. However, some well-known spitballers were given exemptions. The very last spitball thrown in the MLB wasn’t thrown until 1934! Thankfully, the process has now been completely eliminated from the game.
Does It Hurt When the Baseball Hits You?
Yes. It doesn’t even need to be traveling all that fast to cause pain.
You have to remember that a baseball is a hard ball. It also has some intense stitching on it. If the baseball hits you, then it is going to hurt you. The same would happen with a tennis ball, and they are a lot lighter than baseballs.
For the most part, as long as the baseball doesn’t hit your head or neck, then you probably shouldn’t suffer any serious injury. You will probably have a painful bruise for a while, but that is about it.
How Do You Protect Yourself From a Baseball?
The only way to protect yourself properly if you are playing baseball is to wear protection. It doesn’t matter whether you are playing a quick game in the park. If somebody is going to be hurling a baseball at you, then you absolutely need to be wearing protection.
If there is one bit of kit that you must purchase if you want to be protected while playing baseball, it should be a batter’s helmet. This is going to offer adequate protection for your head. This should help to prevent most issues. Of course, a bit of padding elsewhere on your body probably wouldn’t go amiss either.
Of course, actually hitting the baseball is also going to provide you with protection. If the bat hits the baseball, it can’t hit you, after all. However, actually hitting the baseball is not something you can really rely on if you want the best protection. After all, even the pros fail to hit balls on occasion!
Has a baseball player ever had to retire from baseball due to an injury sustained from a baseball?
Tony Conigliaro in the 1960s, while playing for the Boston Red Sox, was hit on the cheek with a baseball. He continued to play the game for a few years after this, but the severity of the injury resulted in him suffering from vision problems. While many people believed that he had the capability to be one of the best players in baseball, he had to retire from the game at the age of 22.
How often can a baseball be replaced in baseball?
As often as needed. If there is even the smallest mark on the baseball, then it should be replaced. The only balls that can be pitched in MLB are those that are completely clean and dry. That being said, baseballs that are wet due to the rain can still be thrown, but they should be replaced anyway.
What is a dry-spitter in baseball?
This is not actually a spitball. Instead, it is a unique way of throwing the ball where it acts similar to a spitball, such as the forkball or split-finger fastball. it can move unpredictably. This way of throwing the ball is completely legal.