Chin music has nothing to do with actual music, but a little dance is usually involved. This baseball term refers to when a pitcher throws the ball a little too close for comfort near the batter’s head. Whether done intentionally or not, no hitter likes having a fastball coming near his face, especially with so many worries over concussions in today’s sports.
One of the most important aspects of pitching is control, but sometimes a pitch can get away. A ball in the dirt is no problem. Outside the strike zone poses no threats to anybody, but a fastball that comes up and in on a batter is very dangerous. Helmets offer protection even when a ball is thrown at 100 mph. They only provide coverage when a batter has his head turned. If a hitter reacts late or does not have time to recognize the pitch and turn his head, the ball can deflect off the helmet into the hitter’s face or hit him square on.
A particularly dangerous situation is when a batter squares around to bunt. His face is looking right at the pitcher and there is much less time to turn his head out of the way of any chin music. If a hitter is bunting, any pitch near his face is almost guaranteed to have been an accident albeit some very bad blood between teams.
Some players wear extended padding on their helmets to cover the jaw, and there are also face masks that can be attached to helmets somewhat like a football helmet. The odds of getting hit are low, but if it does happen the consequences are typically severe. Broken jaws, fractured bones in the face, and eyesight are potential injuries. Kirby Puckett may have had one of the worst outcomes of chin music when he was hit by a pitch from Dennis Martinez in 1995. It broke Puckett’s jaw and would end up being the last at-bat of his career. He was diagnosed with glaucoma the following spring and became blind in his right eye forcing him into retirement.
Throwing near a batter’s head once may head a stare down from home plate to the mound, but a second or third pitch in the same place could most likely lead to a hitter charging the mound. Some players obviously have more patience than others, but multiple pitches at eye level can put even a blind man on edge. Some pitchers throw at hitters on purpose to send a message or as payback for a teammate getting hit, but this is supposed to be done by hitting someone in the body and not the face.
Accidents happen. Balls slip. Nobody deserves to have a pitch thrown near their head on purpose though. Unfortunately, pitches do go wild from time to time and get in a hitter’s comfort zone in the box. Just like any other sport, there is risk in playing baseball and getting hit is one of those risks. Chin music may sound like a comical term but can have dramatic results.