The first installments of The Stud 400 have excited baseball fans and lit a fire during the darkness of the Major League Baseball lockout.
Some may even say they feel like lightning strikes every time a new edition is published.
This week, lightning actually does strike on our countdown as we come across the insane story of Ray Caldwell. Mr. Caldwell has the distinction of being the only Major League player to have been struck by lightning in a game. If that’s not concerning enough, what happened after that is even crazier.
If you’re like most readers of BallNine, you recognize that previous generations of players were just tougher than those in the modern game. Caldwell might have been the toughest of all and you’ll have to read on to find out why. A fried Caldwell, a rivalry between two of the game’s immortals and Mr. Cub highlight this week’s edition of The Stud 400.
But first, here’s look at the previous five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:
380. Tyler Gilbert tosses no-hitter in first Big League start (2021)
379. Derek Jeter’s flip play (2001)
378. Kevin Mench is the first to homer in three straight innings (2005)
377. Jaime Jarrin announces retirement (2021)
376. Major League Baseball begins playing the Little League Classic (2017)
And now, here’s Episode Six of The Stud 400, featuring artwork by Will O’Toole.
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Statcast introduced at all 30 Major League ballparks (2015)
The use or overuse of analytics is one of the most divisive topics in modern Major League Baseball, so fans will see this as either a watershed moment or an eye-roll inducing death knell depending what side of the fence you’re on. There’s no need to recount every metric Statcast is able to measure – and whether or not it’s really all relevant to the way the game is played, but if you want to know the measurement on just about anything that happens in a game, Statcast is capable of producing it. While many of the readings are superfluous, exit velocity, spin rate and launch angle have all become part of the baseball lexicon. In addition, the way Statcast measures pitch speed has added a few miles per hour on pitch velocity as TrackMan measures pitch speed out of the hand, which is where it reaches its maximum velocity.
Ernie Banks first shortstop to hit 40 home runs (1955)
For most of the game’s history, the shortstop position was dominated by no-hit, all-field players and the ones who could handle the bat were typically high-average guys, not power hitters. This was especially true during the first 90 years of the sport’s existence. When Ernie Banks hit 44 home runs in 1955, he became the first shortstop in either league to top the 40-homer mark. Banks repeated the feat four consecutive years from 1957-1960 as well. The idea of a power-hitting shortstop is so rare, that no other National League shortstop topped 40 homers until Fernando Tatis, Jr. did so in 2021.
Ray Caldwell struck by lightning, finishes the game anyway (1919)
Caldwell’s name was somewhat lost in history, but he has had a small resurgence thanks to a screenshot of a stat graphic from Fox broadcast in 2020 that has made its way around the internet. The graphic explained that Caldwell was struck by lightning in the ninth inning of a game, had to be revived, and still stayed in to complete the game. Sounding completely unfathomable, research shows that’s exactly what happened. With one out remaining, Caldwell was struck on the field and knocked unconscious. After a delay, the cantankerous Caldwell refused to come out and finished off the complete game. As crazy as that story is, there are other interesting sidebars as well. The game was Caldwell’s Indians debut as he had just come over in a trade from the Red Sox. There apparently were no long-term effects as Caldwell pitched a no-hitter less than three weeks later. Also, the Indians shortstop that day was Ray Chapman, who died nearly a year to the day in 1920 when he was hit in the head with a pitch by Carl Mays.
The Cobb-Lajoie Chalmers Award controversy (1910)
In 1910, Hugh Chalmers of the Chalmers Automobile Company declared that he would award a car to the batting champions of the American and National Leagues. On the final day of the season, Ty Cobb held a lead over Nap Lajoie for the American League batting title and sat out the final day. Lajoie was competing against the St. Louis Browns in a doubleheader and depending on what version of the story you read, either the entire Browns team or manager Jack O’Connor disliked Cobb so much, he wanted to do what he could to help Lajoie beat out Cobb for the batting crown and that sweet Chalmers Model 30 vehicle. Allegedly, the infield played back all day and Lajoie went 8-for-9 in the doubleheader, with all eight hits coming via bunt singles. This gave Lajoie a .384 batting average and the batting title by .001 points. However, AL President Ban Johnson declared there was an earlier error in Cobb’s stats and his average was in fact, .385. Chalmers eventually decided to give both players a car and the next year switched the criteria to the player who was declared most valuable to his team.
MLB institutes the All-MLB Team (2019)
It’s surprising that it has taken so long, but in 2019 Major League Baseball announced that it would be announcing an All-MLB Team beginning in 2020. The team would be voted on by a combination of fan vote with input as well from a panel of media members, former players and baseball officials. Like the NFL’s All-Pro Team, a First and Second Team is named which encompasses both leagues together.
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Stay tuned for next week’s edition of The Stud 400 when we find out what happens when George Bell gets angry. Our theme is cheap beer and sticky stuff, so be sure to stop by BallNine as The Stud 400 rolls on.