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Carl William Mays (November 12 1891April 4 1971) was one of the better right-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball from 1916-1926, but he is also remembered for throwing the pitch that struck Ray Chapman in the head on August 16, 1920, making Chapman only the second major leaguer in history to die as a direct result of an on-field incident (he died the next day at a NYC hospital).

Born in Liberty, Kentucky, Mays threw with a submarine motion (he was nicknamed "Sub"), although it would be more accurate to say that he threw straight underhand. Mays was also a notorious spitball pitcher, even though this pitch was legal at the time (Chapman's beaning led directly to its being outlawed). In a 15-year career with the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Giants, he compiled a 207-126 record with 29 shutouts, 862 strikeouts and a 2.92 earned run average when the league average was 3.48. He was also noted for his skills with a bat, hitting five home runs, 110 runs batted in, and 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 30th, 1918.


Mays as a batter

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 would accuse him of helping to throw, bringing back still-lingering 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.

Carl Mays died in El Cajon, California. His distant cousin, Joe Mays, was a recent major league pitcher.

In August 2008, he was named as one of the ten former players that began their careers before 1943 to be considered by the Veterans Committee for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.


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.

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Preceded by:
Jim Bagby
American League Wins Champion
(with Urban Shocker)
Succeeded by:
Eddie Rommel