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"Beanball" is a colloquialism used in baseball, for a ball thrown at an opposing player with the intention of striking him such as to cause harm, often connoting a throw at the player's head (or "bean" in old-fashioned slang). A pitcher who throws beanballs often is known as a "headhunter." The term may be applied to any sport in which a player on one team regularly attempts to throw a ball toward the general vicinity of a player of the opposite team, but is typically expected not to hit that player with the ball.

In cricket the equivalent term is "beamer."



In baseball, a beanball is a pitch, similar to a brushback pitch but actually intended to hit the batter as it is thrown at the head. It is rarely used as a strategic weapon, and is usually an act of anger and frustration; however, batters facing known headhunters are given a reason to fear a beanball and may alter their approach to hitting in the interests of self protection, perhaps giving some strategic advantage to the pitcher. Some pitchers have been known to throw beanballs in response to giving up home runs. Teams with rivalries often find several beanballs exchanged a season. Beanballs can sometimes lead to fights, charging the mound, and bench-clearing brawls. Because of the hazards of the pitch and the possibility of fights, umpires will now often warn teams, after beanballs or fights have occurred, that any pitcher who throws at a batter will be ejected from the game with a mandatory one day suspension for the pitcher's manager. Throwing at batters can sometimes lead to suspension for a number of games as well. Managers may also be ejected, if in the umpire's judgment, they ordered their pitcher to throw a beanball.

The number of hazardous beanballs thrown during and previous to the 1950s caused Major League Baseball to require that all batters wear batting helmets, starting in 1956. The helmet with an earflap has been required since 1983, the one with earflaps covering both ears for Minor leaguers. A pitcher who is known for a habit of purposely throwing at opposing batters' heads is called a headhunter. Pitchers popularly known as headhunters include Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Sal Maglie, Hugh Casey, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martínez.

Ray Chapman, killed by a pitch in 1920.

There is only one player who died after being hit in the head. Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman was hit by a pitch thrown by submarine pitcher and noted headhunter Carl Mays on August 16, 1920 at the Polo Grounds in New York. He died 12 hours later and is noted as the second player in the history of major league baseball to suffer a fatal injury in a game (the first was Mike "Doc" Powers in 1909).


Further reading

  • Sowell, Mike. The Pitch That Killed, 1989.

External links

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