The Major League Baseball Pitcher Who Got Struck By Lightning

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Not many people are struck by lightning. In fact, the odds of ever being struck in your entire lifetime is just 1 in 3000. But the people who are unlucky enough to get up close and personal with this weather phenomenon certainly remember their encounters—assuming they live through the experience, of course. Most survivors sustain long-term injuries, including nerve, muscle, and hearing damage, not to mention the wicked-looking burn marks known as Lichtenberg figures that result when capillaries rupture from the electricity.

And then there's the case of pitcher Ray Caldwell.

Library of Congress

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."

Players rushed the mound and fans panicked as Caldwell lay unconscious for five minutes. But he eventually came to, and when he did, he wasn't content with simply surviving the lightning. 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

Despite his close call, Caldwell seemed to have no lasting health effects; in fact, he pitched a no-hitter the very next month. After his playing career ended, he managed in the minor leagues for several years—and presumably stayed in the dugout whenever it looked like rain.