Chris Parmelee: It's Never Safe to Assume, but Especially Not with Head Injuries

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Chris Parmelee: It's Never Safe to Assume, but Especially Not with Head Injuries
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Chris Parmelee: OK, thank goodness.

Last night, the TwinsChris Parmelee took a Justin Thomas pitch off the bill of his helmet (video here). After laying motionless for a few moments, he got up and walked off under his own power. Latest reports have him showing no concussion symptoms and he’s considered to be day-to-day.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire:

"It made a loud sound and hit him solid, but fortunately the ball went up, which means it ricocheted and kind of glanced," Gardenhire said. "It was hit solid, but we're just lucky the kid is OK. He just has a headache right now. Everything's fine. They've checked him out and done everything back there."

We can all be thankful for that. Now, I have said in earlier posts that I’m cynical, morbid and my mind tends to go to dark places, so please understand that I can’t help but make these connections. Last night, watching highlights on the MLB network, the Parmelee incident played, the host narrating, concluding, “He would be OK...he walked off under his own power.”

I immediately thought of Ray Chapman. In 1920, the Indians shortstop was hit in the head by a pitch by the Yankees’ Carl Mays. From SABR’s bio of Chapman:

Many of the players and 20,000 fans heard an "explosive sound"—Babe Ruth said it was audible where he stood far out in right field. Sportswriter Fred Lieb, sitting in the downstairs press box about 50 feet behind the umpire, heard a "sickening thud." The ball dribbled out toward the pitcher's mound on the first base side. Mays fielded it and threw it to first baseman Wally Pipp for the out, apparently thinking the ball had struck the bat. Pipp turned to throw the ball around the infield, but froze when he glanced home. Chapman had sunk to his knees, his face contorted, blood streaming from his left ear.

Chapman was taken to a hospital, underwent surgery and died the next morning. Still, his death is considered the only on-field player fatality in the history of the majors. Here’s the kicker, though: Chapman, to borrow a phrase, “walked off under his own power.” Well, sort of:

Ray Chapman (via SABR.org/bioproj).

Speaker rushed over from the on deck circle to tend to his stricken friend, who was trying to sit. Speaker thought Chapman wanted to get up and rush Mays. Finally, two doctors (one of them a Yankee team physician) arrived, applied ice and revived Chapman. He walked under his own power across the infield toward the clubhouse in center field, but his knees gave way again near second base. Two teammates grabbed the shortstop, put his arms around their shoulders, and carried him the rest of the way.

Cheery stuff, right? Fortunately, it’s not totally relevant. There is a big difference between the Chapman and Parmelee incidents: Parmelee was wearing a helmet, Chapman was wearing only a soft cap.

You know how long it took for the majors to draw a lesson from Chapman and institute that change? They rushed right out and did it 37 years later, and then it was only cap liners that were mandated, not helmets. Full helmets weren’t required until 1971, or 51 years after the fact. Either way, though, you can't assume that just because a player walks off that he's going to be OK.

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