What happens when you get drilled in the body by a dense, round object going 90 mph or more? Of course, many MLB players' reactions are to clench their teeth and bear the pain on their way to first base. Still, there is a tremendous risk each time a batter steps up to the plate, as we have seen on too many occasions.
There have been many cases of players being seriously hurt by a pitch. The most noteworthy incident occured on August 16, 1920, when the Cleveland Indians' Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch from Carl Mays of the New York Yankees. He died from the injury after suffering from internal bleeding in his head. Chapman is the only person in MLB history to have died from an injury sustained during a game.
While players now wear batting helmets, something that wasn't around in Chapman's day, there's still a certain risk of injury. For instance, in 2005 Mike Piazza suffered a concussion after being hit with a pitch that was so fast that it cracked his helmet. Almost 40 years earlier in 1967, Tony Conigliaro was hit near the left eye, keeping him out of the game for an entire year, as he almost lost sight in that eye.
It only makes sense for players to be paid a good amount of money when it comes to playing professional sports. The injury risk that comes with being an athlete is very significant, but it isn't enough to keep most baseball players away from the plate. This list of the ten players who have been hit by the most pitches in baseball history is proof that some people out there are more than willing to put their bodies in harms way for the sport they love.
It's a testament to how much baseball has evolves as a sport that so many players from the early days of baseball still have amazing stats next to their names. One such example comes from Jake Beckley, who played in the game from 1888 to 1907. Playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds for much of his career, he was hit 183 times including 22 times in 1894 in 132 games. Needless to say, Beckley was not compensated for putting up with this threat as much as others. He earned about $2,500 per year around the turn of the century, a total that was on par with what most were earning in the game at the time. Amazingly enough, he was bought by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1888 for $4,500.
Saturnino Orestes Minoso, or Minnie as people would call him, is considered to be one of the greatest players in Chicago White Sox history and one of the best to not be in the Hall of Fame. While he had a .304 average for twelve years with the Sox in the 1950s and 1960s, he led the league in HBP ten times during his career. He was hit 23 times in 1956 and was only paid $32,500 for playing that year. This is close to $278,000 in today's money when all is said and done. For the record, he did not get hit by a pitch during any of the five games he played in 1976 or 1980 when Bill Veeck brought him back to the team for a few games as a special promotion.
Frank Robinson won two MVP titles during his career and was the 1956 NL Rookie of the Year. He was one of the better hitting stars in the game, hitting 586 home runs in 21 years. As a result, he was often intentionally walked. Robinson was given 218 free passes but was hit 198 times during his career. Perhaps some of these hits were done during intentional walk attempts where the ball simply got away from the pitcher. Robinson's salary kept going up as was the case with everyone else in the game, and he got $57,000 with the 1965 Cincinnati Reds, followed by $160,000 with the 1973 California Angels.
Dan McGann was one of the first players in the game to be a switch-hitter. As a result, many pitchers at the time could easily hit him because it was tough to avoid depending on which side of the plate he was swinging from. He was hit 37 times in 1899 and 230 times over his entire career. Some of this could be attributed to how the ball at the time was often doctored by pitchers with dirt and other items to give it a less regular or predictable trajectory. McGann and others were the victims. He was making $1,500 in 1899 with the Brooklyn Superbas and Washington Senators of the National League. That's close to $40.50 per HBP.
Ron Hunt was a journeyman who played for five teams in twelve seasons from 1963 to 1974. He was paid $20,000 per year when he started his career with the New York Mets and made close to the same total each year including when he played with the Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants. Hunt was a target no matter where he went, having been hit 243 times. In 1971, his first year with the Expos, he was hit 50 times in 638 plate appearances. That's one HBP for every thirteen appearances! This is the second-highest single-season HBP total in history. We'll get to the person who holds the #1 record (as well as 3 and 4) later on this list.
As a catcher, Jason Kendall saw many cases where other batters got hit by pitches. This included nine years with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1996 to 2004. In fact, he saw more than 50 people get hit by Pirate pitches in 2002. Interestingly enough, Kendall only got hit nine times that year while teammate Craig Wilson was hit 21 times. Unlike Wilson, who played for seven years, Kendall had some longevity in the MLB. Playing for a total of 15 years, he was hit 254 times in his career including 31 times each in 1997 and 1998. Those were also the last times he earned less than $1 million per year. He made as much as $12.8 million in 2007 with the Oakland Athletics and around $83.4 million in his career. That was good for almost $330,000 per HBP.
Don Baylor is currently the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Angels and was a manager for both the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs. Perhaps he instills his fearless batting philosophy in Angels hitters, as he lead the sport in HBP eight times. He was hit 35 times while with the 1986 Boston Red Sox. This came a year after being traded by New York Yankees with whom he signed a deal giving him $660,000 that year. The $1.6 million six-year deal he had with the California Angels before then saw him get hit 66 times in those six seasons.
Remember Tommy Tucker? You're not alone; he played over a century ago. From 1887 to 1899 Tucker was hit 272 times and led the league five times in that category. A majority of his hits were with the Boston Beaneaters of the National League but he was also hit 33 times in 1889 with the American Association's Baltimore Orioles. He did have a .372 average that year and got 196 hits of his own, making him quite a good player. It's no surprise that he was tough enough to make it through such a beating at the plate, as he was known to hip-check batters off of first base and then tag them out.
Craig Biggio was two votes shy of making it into the Hall of Fame in 2014. This might hurt more than the 285 beanballs he absorbed in his career, all with the Houston Astros. One thing that's for certain with Biggio is that he could still get on base without having to be hit so often. He had 3,060 hits in 20 years with 668 doubles and 291 home runs. The fast turf of the Astrodome and the unusual dimensions of MinuteMaid Park were particularly ideal for hitting. It's estimated that he earned around $82.1 million in his playing career including a career-high $9.75 million in 2003. He got close to $300,000 for every HBP when all that money is factored.
Hughie Jennings would probably be scoffing at all the other people on this list if he was alive. Over the course of thirteen seasons from 1891 to 1903, he was hit by 287 pitches. Jennings was hit 51 times with the 1896 Baltimore Orioles and 46 times per year the next two years, earning him the first, third and fourth-most HBPs in one year. He got $2,600 in 1898, good for around $56.50 per HBP that year. He played in six games over the course of five years from 1907 to 1918 while being a manager for the Detroit Tigers. It's amazing that he lived to be 58 years of age as he suffered multiple head traumas, including being struck in the head by a pitch that left him unconscious and in a coma for three days. He also fractured his skull after jumping into a pool during the night not knowing that it had been emptied and suffered another fractured skull in 1911 in a car wreck. He ended up dying from meningitis in 1928.