I've read a lot of baseball books over the years, but it's rare to find a graphic novel about baseball based on a real event.  It's one of the things that makes this book a delight to anyone who enjoys comic book type art, a true story and a light read to boot.

Hit by Pitch is the story of the only death by beaning that ever happened in a Major League baseball game.   It's the story of Ray Chapman, shortstop for the Cleveland Indians and Yankees hurler Carl Mays who threw the fatal pitch that hit Chapman in the head.  It's also a light biography of those men and the players who surrounded them on the field including what led up to that day, the reactions of the players, the events and fans afterwards.

Written and illustrated: Molly Lawless
Release date: April 30, 2012
Pages: 195 here
You'll find yourself introduced to quite a few Hall of Famers, learn some intriguing trivia and see baseball in a different age, not through the medium of a history book, but through the images that Molly Lawless put on the page.   Her illustrations are reminiscent of famed comic artist Robert Crumb and her storytelling is superb.

It's a rare baseball graphic novel that should appeal to both older children and adults, too, and it could be a harbinger of more baseball books to come if readers enjoy it as much as I did.

Clearly Lawless is a serious baseball fan with a love of the history of the game.  Her characters flesh out some of the legends of the game, making them appear a bit more human, and a bit less like history as she tells the story not just from a single perspective, but from several, as the tragedy unfolded.

I'm not quite sure how much artistic license was taken with the details of the story, but it rings true, believable and does have a lot of credible historic details.

I found this a very enjoyable light read, and suspect most fans, especially younger ones who don't know much about the Chapman beaning, will devour this book.

Give this 3 Balls on our Four Ball scale and chalk it up as the current league leader in baseball graphic novels. writes its book reviews with the following rating scale in mind:

Four Balls: An exceptional book that truly earns a walk straight to the local book store to get a copy.
Three Balls: This book stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Two Balls: A book worth reading/owning and is usually above average.
One Ball: This book has something to say but is nothing special.