Sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether the old days were the best or the worst. We have all kinds of safety standards and modern conveniences that make life simpler, safer and in a lot of ways much much better than it surely used to be, but on the other hand we don’t get bad ass baseball stories like Ray Caldwell’s brush with nature anymore.
August 24, 1919, marked Caldwell’s first game as a Cleveland Indian. He was pitching well against the Philadelphia Athletics, despite a persistent rain that had started in the fourth inning, and by the ninth, the Indians were up, 2-1.
Caldwell quickly put away the first two batters and, with the A’s down to their final out, Jumping Joe Dugan stepped to the plate. Then suddenly, lightning struck—literally. A bolt hit the iron rail in front of the press box, made its way down the steel posts and across the infield, and struck Caldwell on the mound. Or else it struck the dirt of the pitcher’s mound directly. Or else it entered the metal button on the top of Caldwell’s cap and exited the metal spikes of his shoes. Accounts differed, but regardless, the pitcher was knocked clean out.
He later told the Cleveland Press, “It felt just like somebody came up with a board and hit me on top of the head and knocked me down.”
He was out for a good five minutes as fans and players alike frantically either tried to help or did whatever else it is that frantic people do when serious shit goes down. When he finally awoke, the Indians manager made the quite logical decision that it was time to go to the pen for a fresh arm…or maybe he didn’t, because this was 1919 when men were men and didn’t have time for silly little things like near death experiences, goddammit!
He got to his feet, shook his head, and insisted on finishing out the game. With his next and final pitch, he induced a ground out to third to hand the Indians a crucial win.
Then, because Ray Caldwell gives not a fuck for your sissy disabled list, he followed that up by tossing a no-hitter a few weeks later.
He’s also said to have lived a normal life after the incident, without the lasting effects that many lightning survivors endure. Or maybe he was a bit of a mess but didn’t say anything and nobody wanted to or could diagnose it, because different time. Whatever the case, it sounds like he did alright and it’s a cool story, so let’s go with he was fine. A little crazy, but fine.