Damned Yankees indeed! This quasi-documentary short film chronicles the last death that happened on the field in Major League Baseball and indicts the New York Yankees as being a satanic cult hit job that used pitcher Carl Mays to kill Cleveland Indian star Ray Chapman with a beanball, forever changing the fortunes of both franchises.
Directed by Sean McCoy
Take that Ken Burns! The Beaning is a (mostly) historical take on the last time that a Major League Player died on the field of play. In 1920, shorstop Ray Chapman was struck in the head by a pitch from New York Yankee pitcher Carl Mays. Chapman was one of the fastest players in baseball, setting the Cleveland franchise record for stolen bases, and managed to have three seasons where he hit over .300. He was a young star, and it all ended quite abruptly with one pitch.
As history would tell it, Mays was a submarine pitcher, meaning he threw an unorthodox underhanded pitch, which is a very deceptive pitch to try and pick up out of the pitcher’s hand. Later pitchers who used similar strange deliveries include Kent Tekulve, Dennis Eckersly, Dan Quisenberry, and Chad Bradford. They are rare pitchers, and Mays added to the deception of his pitches by heavily doctoring the ball… a spitball., making it REALLY hard to see.
The pitch struck Chapman squarely in the temple, fracturing his skull and he would die later that afternoon. Still, baseball would not implement a batting helmet rule until 1971, and it’s amazing that no one else died from a beanball since. (Though hall of fame catcher Mickey Cochrane almost did in 1937, ending his career.)
So, that’s the true story. Director McCoy must be a Red Sox fan, because he has re-imagined this history with the premise that Chapman was a blood sacrifice in an occult action by the New York Yankees, who had yet to be the Yankees as we know them today. Chapman in this telling is the virtuous hero, and Mays is the dastardly weirdo. The Yankees wanted to win in the worst way, and Mays was the tool to get them there.
In 1920 Babe Ruth was famously sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees, and baseball has never been the same since. The 27 World Series titles by the Yankees surpasses titles for all other teams in all other sports. The Yankees are synonymous with winning, and since 1920, the Indians have won exactly one world series title, back in 1948.
Coincidence? Hell no! I knew it! I KNEW IT! The Yankees killed Ray Chapman in order to achieve lasting glory, right? It’s a fanciful take and one that all Yankee haters can buy into. However, you won’t see this premise in the Baseball Historical Abstracts.
This odd little short film bears the hallmarks of a documentary, with the somber voice over and the fantastic old-timey footage. It also really drifts into experimental film, using strong hues (red for evil, blue for good) and atonal and unsettling music in the background. It feels like a museum film, dunked in LSD and absinthe. This was one of my favorite shorts from the Overlook Film Festival in 2018, and is a must watch for any sports fan who likes some conspiracy theories and horror takes.