Everyone knows the tale of Ray Chapman, the Cleveland shortstop who died after being beaned in the head in 1920, one of only two major leaguers to die from injuries suffered during a game.
Chapman is buried at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, a legendary burial ground that serves as the final resting place for former President James Garfield, Elliot Ness, John D. Rockefeller and countless other national luminaries of politics and business.
Charles Pinkney is also buried at Lake View Cemetery, but there is no fanfare, no grave marker, no bats and balls left at his grave. That, however, will change this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. during a dedication of a new headstone for the Cleveland native and minor leaguer who, like Chapman, died after being beaned in the head by a pitch during a game.
Don't know the story of Charles "Cupid" Pinkney? You're not alone. I didn't know anything about him until reading John Campanelli's great roundup of his story last year.
It was September 14, 1909, and the Dayton Veterans were playing a doubleheader against the Grand Rapids Wolverines. Pinkney was a talented Class B infielder who may or may not have been courting interest from the Cleveland Naps. Regardless, that day he was playing for the Veterans and had already hit a dinger in the first game.
The second game was wearing on into dusk and everyone had agreed that the seventh inning would be the last. It was dark, dark enough that newspaper accounts of the game quoted fans as wondering whether the players could even see the ball anymore.
After working a 3-0 count, Pinkney was bashed in the head by the next pitch.
From Campanelli's story:
It's unclear from newspaper accounts whether Cupid tried to get out of the way of the fourth pitch or if he even saw what was described in the Journal as "a swift shoot, which approached the home plate like a shot from a rifle."
The pitch smashed into the left side of Cupid's head, just above and behind his left ear, fracturing his skull. He went down, unconscious.
His father dashed to his side. He helped carry him to an ambulance. Then he did something few would expect from a Civil War veteran and seasoned railroad man.
At first, the doctors at St. Elizabeth Hospital were optimistic. The ballplayer seemed to be improving and had regained partial consciousness "but was not able to talk intelligently," according to a report in the Journal. A doctor told the paper that Cupid "would not succumb to the awful blow."
But after midnight, with his father and weeping teammates keeping a bedside vigil, Cupid again lost consciousness. Doctors performed a trephining operation, drilling a hole into his skull. It didn't help. By 12:20 the next afternoon, Cupid was gone.
101 years ago and "Cupid" Pinkney is just finally being recognized with a proper headstone. Next time you're at Lake View, make sure you visit Ray Chapman's grave, then make the ten-minute walk to Pinkney's. He deserves it.
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