1Raymond Chapman Killed by Spitball
Raymond Chapman, a shortstop for the Cleveland Naps and later the Indians, has the dubious distinction of being the only ballplayer to die of an game-related injury in the major leagues.
On August 16, 1920, Chapman was hit by a pitch at the top of the 5th inning in a game with the New York Yankees. Back then, spitballs and other ornery tricks were quite common and the ball thrown by Carl Mays was reportedly very erratic and hard to see. It hit Chapman so hard, it sounded like the crack of a bat. Chapman froze momentarily before falling to the ground with blood pouring out his ear; he died early the next day. After that, umpires were required to immediately replace dirty balls, although the batting helmet didn't become mandatory until 1971.
2“King Kong” Kirk Killed by Belly Slam
I thought Pro Wrestling was supposed to be fake…
It was a Pro Wrestling stunt gone horribly wrong. In 1987, Malcom “King Kong” Kirk and his partner, King Kendo, were in a tag team match with Shirley “Big Daddy” Crabtree and Greg Valentine. Big Daddy, huge at 6' 6” and 375 lb, was famous for his body slams and King Kong was certainly no wimp at 6'1” and 353 lbs. However, when Big Daddy slammed King Kong with his “Belly Splash,” Kirk turned grey and had to be rushed to the hospital. It was later learned that Kirk had a heart condition, so it wasn't technically Big Daddy's fault. Still, Kirk's death haunted him and he retired from wrestling.
3Death by Zorbing
On your mark, get set… Zorb!
Never heard of Zorbing? Basically it's a sport where you and possibly a partner or two roll down a gentle slope in a giant plastic ball. This is usually pretty safe, but there have been a couple of deaths. In January 2013, Denis Burakov died and his friend was seriously injured in a Zorbing mishap, when the ball began to roll out of control in Dombay, Russia; a similar death was reported in the Czech Republic in 2009.
4Children's Entertainer Killed While Adjusting TV Antenna to Watch Sporting Match
Rod Hull was a huge Manchester United football team fan and often liked to watch their matches on the telly at home. The popular children's entertainer, who performed with a giant Emu puppet, climbed out onto the roof to adjust the reception during the Champions League match between Manchester and Internazionale that occurred on March 17, 1999. Unfortunately, he slipped and fell through the roof of an adjoining greenhouse and fractured his skull.
5Angry Teen Killed by Own Golf Club
This golf-related temper tantrum cost Jeremy Brenno his young life. Brenno was just 16 years old on July 11, 1994 when he was so frustrated after missing a shot, he whipped around and struck a nearby bench in anger. The No. 3 wood he was using snapped in two and pierced his heart; he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
6Bobby Leach, Barrel Diver, Dies From Slipping on Banana Peel
Bobby Leach was the second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel (the first was a woman named Annie Taylor), but that's not what killed him. He spent many years on the lecture circuit, telling about his harrowing adventure. In 1926, he slipped on a banana peel; his injured leg became gangrenous and had to be amputated. He died of complications from the operation.
7LIghtning Kills Entire Football Team
In 1999, a football (soccer) match in the eastern part of the Congo ended in tragedy when an entire team of 11 men were struck by lightning. The freak accident occurred due to the metal spikes in their shoes. Even more strange, the opposing team was left unharmed, creating speculation that the event was caused by witchcraft.
8Harry Houdini Died From Punch to Abdomen
Harry Houdini was, of course, known as a magician, escape artist, and spiritualist debunker, but the popular myth was that he died while trying to escape the Chinese Water Torture. In fact, he was killed by several punches to the stomach. According to the story, a student named J. Gordon Whitehead asked to punch Houdini in the stomach; Houdini had boasted that he could withstand such punches. Before Houdini was prepared, Whitehead unexpectedly punched him rapidly and very hard. He died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix October 31, 1926.
914-Year-Old Boy Killed by Foul Ball
We think of the National Pastime as exciting and fun, not dangerous. Yet, there is a surprisingly long list of baseball-related deaths, as collected in a book entitled Death at the Ballpark: A Comprehensive Study of Game-Related Fatalities of Players, Other Personnel and Spectators in Amateur and Professional Baseball, 1862-2007 (which of course includes #1).
Foul balls, however, only have taken the life of one in 150 years: a 14-year-old boy named Alan Fish off the swing of Los Angeles Dodger Manny Mota on May 16, 1970. The ball flew so fast, no one saw it coming and the boy initially appeared fine but later began acting incoherently so they took him to the hospital; he died 4 days later. It was pointed out that Mota's teenage nephew would also die playing baseball 14 years later.