Ray Caldwell was an electric pitcher in the majors from 1910 to '21. Most of his years were spent pitching for the New York Yankees, and briefly he was on the same pitching staff as Babe Ruth with the 1919 Boston Red Sox. But perhaps the most interesting moment from that season and Caldwell's career was when he was struck down by lightning on the mound.
It was 96 years ago today, August 24th. Caldwell was making his first start for the Cleveland Indians after being released by Boston two weeks prior. He had thrown 8 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Philadelphia Athletics and had his team up 2-1 when a great firebolt from the sky struck a railing near the press box, surged down the ballpark railings, crossed the infield, and felled Caldwell, knocking him unconscious for five minutes according to witnesses.
Umpires rushed to the mound where the great hurler lay on his back. Fans were panicked. It was a breathless moment.
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Then … he sat up. Just like that. He shook his head, looked around, and asked for the ball so he could finish the game. And wouldn't you know it; he retired Athletics shortstop Jumpin' Joe Dugan on his very next pitch to end the game.
It's no secret pitchers were a different breed back then. Often times they'd throw a huge amount of pitches across dozens of complete games in a given season until their arm fell off, but this? This was ridiculous. A pitcher finishing a game in which he was struck by lightning? Nothing will ever come close to that on a diamond these days.
Only three starts later, Caldwell would go on to pitch a no-hitter against the Yankees. His career would end just two years later.
Miller Huggins, the manager who led the Yankees to their first three World Series championships in franchise history wrote this about Caldwell in 1924:
Caldwell was one of the best pitchers that ever lived, but he was one of those characters that keep a manager in a constant worry. If he had possessed a sense of responsibility and balance, Ray Caldwell would have gone down in history as one of the greatest of all pitchers.
According to reports of the time, Caldwell had an enormous appetite for night life and a weakness for both alcohol and women. He had tremendous potential that was drowned by what were then deemed "irregular habits."
So while he didn't go down as one of the best pitchers the game has ever seen, he did go down as the pitcher who finished a game despite absorbing a powerful thunderbolt from the Cleveland sky.
That was 96 years ago. What did you do today?
Read more about Ray Caldwell's life and times over here.