|Born: November 12, 1891
|Died: April 4, 1971
El Cajon, California
|Batted: Left||Threw: Right|
|April 15, 1915 for the Boston Red Sox|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 24, 1929 for the New York Giants|
|Earned run average||2.92|
|Career highlights and awards|
Carl William Mays (November 12, 1891 – April 4, 1971) was a right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball from 1915 to 1929.1 He is primarily remembered for throwing the beanball that killed Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians on August 16, 1920. Chapman became the only major league player to die as a direct result of an on-field injury.23
According to his World War I draft card, Carl William Mays was born November 12, 1892 in Adderson, Kentucky. His father was a Methodist minister named William Henry Mays. Carl had a strict upbringing as a child. Much like legendary pitcher Christy Mathewson, Mays refused to pitch on Sundays.4 He was known for a habit of throwing inside to any batter who hugged the plate. Despite a stellar win/loss record, Mays was typically among the American League leaders in hit batsmen.4
When Mays was 12, his father died. Mays internalized his grief, settling into a surly persona. He had very few friends in the baseball world. His best personal support group was a couple named Pierce and Genevieve Mays. Pierce may have been related to Carl, and the couple served as a surrogate uncle and aunt to Carl.(Sean Deveney, The Original Curse, McGraw-Hill, 2010, pp. 146–157).
In 1915, while a member of the Boston Red Sox, Mays was in a heated confrontation with Ty Cobb of the Tigers. Mays threw at Cobb each time he came to bat. In the eighth inning, after a close pitch, Cobb threw his bat in Mays' direction, calling him a "no good son of a bitch." Mays responded by calling Cobb a "yellow dog."5 After order was restored, Mays hit Cobb directly on the wrist. The Tigers won the game 6–15 and the incident cemented Mays' reputation as a head hunter.5
The Yankees were trailing when Ray Chapman came to the plate in the fifth inning on August 16, 1920. Mays was pursuing his 100th career win that day. Chapman had a sacrifice bunt in the first inning and popped up to Yankee first baseman Wally Pipp in the third.6 Angered that Chapman was crowding the plate, Mays let loose with a high fastball that Chapman apparently never saw. The impact of the ball striking Chapman in the head was so loud that Mays thought it had hit Chapman's bat. Mays caught the ball as it bounced onto the field and threw it to Pipp at first base. Chapman fell to the ground twice trying to make his way to first base. Cleveland teammate and long-time friend Tris Speaker raced from the on deck circle to check on Chapman. He was joined by several players from the Indians and Yankees. Mays, however, never left the mound.6
Chapman was taken to a hospital, where surgeons operated and discovered a skull fracture. He initially seemed to rally after the surgery but died early in the morning on the following day. Mays stayed in the game and continued to pitch until being replaced in the ninth inning. Cleveland won the game 4-3. The New York District Attorney determined that the incident was an accident, and no charges were filed.7
Mays was nicknamed "Sub", a reference to his submarine pitching motion.2 Mays was a notorious spitball pitcher; this pitch was legal at the time of the Chapman incident. The fatal incident was partly responsible for the subsequent banning of the pitch in Major League Baseball.
In a 15-year career with the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Giants, Mays compiled a 207–126 record with 29 shutouts, 862 strikeouts and a 2.92 earned run average when the league average was 3.48.1 He won twenty or more games five times.1 He was also noted for his skills with a bat, hitting five home runs, recording 110 runs batted in, and sporting a lifetime .268 batting average—an unusually high mark for a pitcher. Mays is the only Red Sox pitcher to toss two nine-inning complete game victories on the same day, as he bested the Philadelphia Athletics 12–0 and 4–1 on August 30, 1918.8 Those wins put the Red Sox one step from clinching the league championship, as they led Cleveland by 3 1/2 games with 4 remaining to play.
Mays enjoyed his best season in 1921, when he led the American League in wins (27), innings pitched (336.2), games pitched (49), and winning percentage (.750). However, that same season Mays, pitching then for the Yankees, played in a World Series that others later accused him of helping to throw, bringing back memories of the Black Sox scandal from just two years prior. These rumors were never proven, but they persisted long enough that, combined with an already negative reputation among other players both from the Chapman incident and from having a personality that few found agreeable, he was never elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite having lifetime statistics comparable to some other pitchers who were.9
In August 2008, Mays was one of the ten former players who began their careers before 1943 to be considered by the Veterans Committee for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009. He was named on only about 25 percent of the ballots, so he was not selected for induction.
The book The Pitch That Killed, by Mike Sowell, is a history of the Chapman-Mays events.
The historical novel, The Curse of Carl Mays, by Howard Camerik, also recounts the history of the incident.
The children's book, Ray and Me by Dan Gutman, tells of Joe Stoshack and his journey to save Ray's life from Mays' "killer" pitch.
The book 1921: The Yankees, the Giants, and the Battle for Baseball Supremacy in New York by Lyle Spatz, Steve Steinberg, Charles C. Alexander, takes a look at how Mays had social problems with his teammates and how that actually led him to be sold to the Yankees from the Red Sox.
A 2015 film is in pre-production based on the Mays/Chapman incident and Mike Sowell's book, "The Pitch That Killed," by comeaboardproductions.com.
- Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, 2009
- List of Major League Baseball leaders in career wins
- List of Major League Baseball saves champions
- List of Major League Baseball wins champions
- MLB All-Time Hit Batsmen List
- Carl Mays at Baseball Reference
- Carl Mays: My Pitch That Killed Chapman Was A Strike! by Phyllis Propert, Baseball Digest, July 1957, Vol. 16, No. 6, ISSN 0005-609X
- The Death of Ray Chapman, The New York Times, August 17, 1920
- Ron Elliot, Historic Kentucky People and Places, Ray Chapman's Last Time at Bat, Courtesy of Carl Mays, accessed January 31, 2013
- The 1918 Boston Red Sox Regular Season Game Log at retrosheet
- Tragic Pitch Recalled By Carl Mays, by Jack Murphy, Baseball Digest, May 1971, Vol. 30, No. 5, ISSN 0005-609X
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Mays Came From Down Under to Land on Top
- 2007 Hall of Fame candidate profile
- The Death of Ray Chapman - NY Times, 18 August 1920
- Trouble Followed Storm-Center Mays; Sore Arm Made Him Pitch Underhand, by Harry Grayson, June 16, 1943