So, one of baseball's greatest pitchers accidentally killed a man. This seems to be all that is remembered of Carl "Sub" Mays with his case stamped "CLOSED" and dated August 16, 1920, in regard to Baseball Hall Of Fame worthiness.
While investigating Carl Mays' closed case file a bit closer, I have come to conclude it should be reopened, re-accessed and urgently considered for 2020 Hall Of Fame Early Baseball Era Ballot inclusion and for 2022 Baseball Hall Of Fame Induction, celebration and recognition. This ultimate request of the proactive exoneration of Carl Mays coming to fruition near one-hundred years to the date of Mays' undeserved world of baseball and public defamation of character and spirit relative to the death of one Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians.
Before going any further, we will call before the Early Baseball Era Committee one Charles Johnson, a former San Diego area high school player who amazingly experienced the baseball tutelage of one Carl Mays up until the year of Mays' passing in 1971. Mr. Johnson describes his personal reflection of the character of Carl Mays as he continued to give back to the game of baseball up until near the time of his death.
"Carl Mays came down from Oregon to help out with our high school baseball team in San Diego every spring for four consecutive years through 1971. He spent a lot of one-on-one time with us. Not only did he teach the pitchers a lot of important things, but helped teach hitting and strategy. I can remember spending hours in the batting cage while Mr. Mays would sit in a folding chair analyzing my swing and giving helpful tips.
Back in 1969 we had no internet and the only way of getting baseball history information was to read a book. We (the players) did appreciate Mr. Mays, but we really had no idea of the magnitude of who this man was. He had to walk with a cane and looked older than his 78 years when we knew him. He was my connection to baseball history."
From this common pitcher's mound ground, it's obvious there are major league differences in our life paths. Carl Mays became a two hundred seven (207) Major League Baseball (MLB) career game winner while I learned how to read and write about such great feats. Carl Mays played fifteen years in the MLB with a 2.92 ERA while I learned how to read and write about such great feats. Carl Mays is a 4X World Series Champion and won three (3) World Series games while I learned to how read and write about such great feats. Carl Mays played with, and at the talent level of, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb while I learned how to read and write about such great feats.
As witnesses looked upon Ray Chapman crowding the plate on August 16, 1920, Mays sidearm slung a fiery fastball into what he fervently claimed was the strike zone with Chapman's head hanging within said strike zone. The impact of the ball struck Chapman with such force that Mays thought it hit his bat and had no clue it hit him in the head. While thinking it was in play, Mays picked the ball up and threw to first for what he thought would be an out. Meanwhile, Chapman falls down twice during his attempt to walk to first on a hit by pitch call by the umpire. Chapman, unable to get up, is taken to the hospital where 1920 era surgeons diagnose a skull fracture. After what looked to be a good chance at recovery after surgery, Chapman died the following morning on August 17, 1920.
Where do we go from this tragic death blow to professional baseball which is time stamped and paralleled with the breaking news of Chicago's infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal? As I researched deeper into The Baseball Chronicle, I uncovered a "to-his-dying-day" statement from Carl Mays. He adamantly insisted that "the pitch that killed Chapman would have been called a strike had he managed to duck out of the way." Chapman was historically noted for hugging the plate so closely when batting that his head was usually in the strike zone.
Like any pitcher worth a grain of salt, early age, golden aged or modern day, the plate belongs to me mentality rules the standard mind set. Was this disastrous death toll event within the world of professional baseball so shocking that everyone for a century and counting has literally continued to dismiss the fact that it was an accident?
Even an average legal intern would have sense enough to argumentatively question that if a pitcher is supposed to throw a strike and the batter's head is in the strike zone, who is truly at fault? We can all join a ghost jury of this Early Era and make judgement for ourselves. Mays himself chose to express regret but stated he "did not feel any guilt because he had not hit Chapman on purpose."
We do have to ponder if the U.S. Army can foresee the great need of head protection, and, considering baseball had already incurred such a devastating death blow to the head, why then, at the least, were some protective measures not already implemented by the MLB when Ray Chapman stuck his head out over the plate and died in 1920?
Although Frank Mogridge was granted a patent (#780899) for a "head protector" in 1905, batter safety was ignored for the next fifty-five years. Although Hall Of Famer Roger Bresnahan developed a "leather-batting" helmet in 1908 after being struck in the head and severely injured, batter safety was ignored for the next fifty-two years.
Ironically from the point of Chapman's death blow in 1920, it took baseball governorship near forty more years to even seriously begin to think about this problem. Headgear and helmets did not truly come into play in the major leagues until 1960 when Jim Lemon became the first player to wear a "little league" helmet in a major league game.
So, I ask, why is Carl Mays, to this day, held personally responsible for what is clearly the fault of what seems to be a variety of uncontrolled circumstances of his time. A batter who crowds the plate with his head attached to the strike zone and leadership that did not either comprehend, care, or, consider if said batter wore head protection or not. Again, I ask who is at fault?
It is most interesting to exhume news of one particular and dramatic incident from the 1915 season. It included the one they call Tyrus "Ty" Cobb dangerously tossing a bat towards a Red Sox rookie pitcher (Carl Mays) with a most stormy relationship being born in baseball. "Cobb is the greatest ball player in the world and also the dirtiest," said Mays in the November 30, 1915, edition of the Grand Forks Daily Herald.
Following this potentially lethal bat tossing by Cobb, Mays states Red Sox shortstop Everett Scott "picked it up and brought it in and I walked back to Cobb and shoved it out at him. Just as he reached for it I pulled it back. Again I stuck it out at him, and when he reached for it this time I let it fall to the ground. For a minute or two he refused to pick it up, but then did so when the umpire ordered," added Mays. "Cobb tries to get the goat of every young pitcher. If a look or hot words could have killed me, I would be inhabiting a wooden kimono now."
Makes a 1920 ghost jury or 2020 Hall Of Fame Early Baseball Era decision maker question if Mays' courageous ability, as a rookie, to stand up to the world renowned nastiness of Ty Cobb was the actual birth place of his own unpleasant public persona? Should a man and ball player from this antiquated window of time need room to be who he has to be in order to survive within such a distressed environment of this intemperate baseball era?
I continue my case with optimism that Carl Mays will now be seriously and sincerely considered with prompt recognition for his on-the-field accomplishments and not just for the fatal accident that has created his personal and undeserved infamy. Two hundred and seven (207) major league victories with a 2.92 ERA is quite a feat. A World Series victory is what all pitchers dream about much less than the three earned by Carl Mays. Although he carried somewhat of a harsh persona that endured and subdued the ferocious testings of Ty Cobb, I find it most hard to believe Carl Mays would have or could have killed a man on purpose.
I personally and honestly believe there has never been a major or minor league ball player anywhere at anytime on any field that has ever carried the intent to kill another player. Common sense of statistically understanding the number (of MLB players) who have ever died from being hit by a pitch (1) while understanding the game, from a players viewpoint, is to be participated in competitively but with honor and respect for even the most hated of rivals. The literal nonexistence of any such Death Wish should be most time proven and most apparent to anyone who has been, or is now, a part of our Great American Pastime.
The contest between the Yankees and Indians on August 16, 1920, was a baseball game not a war. It just doesn't seem there would be room for a Death Wish mentality from anyone involved. Yet, that undeserved death blow perception lives on in Carl Mays' posthumous infamy. This continuation is now just a few innings short of one-hundred years old as I request a "NOT GUILTY VERDICT" and complete exoneration as Early Baseball Era decision makers delve into the truly important elements of Mays' fifteen seasons under the summer sun.
While investigating documented statistics from Mays' early MLB career, I discovered that he had become a top rated submariner for the Boston Red Sox by 1917. He won a total of 22 games with The Baseball Chronicle recognizing a league leading 1.74 E.R.A. In a same season when baseball great Ty Cobb was performing at his standard batting championship level, baseball's Chronicle recognizes "the young guns of Carl Mays and Babe Ruth were beginning to make their own championship noise."
Dazzy Vance was and is considered by many to be the "best" pitcher of the 1920's and most deservedly received induction into Baseball's Hall Of Fame in 1955. If comparing real time statistics reveals real truth, Vance's 197 victories (and 3.24 ERA) is quite magnificent but the statistical math falls ten short of Carl Mays' 207 career victories and 2.92 ERA.
Mays is a 4X World Series Champion winning three with the Red Sox and one with the Yankees in 1923. His best season came about in 1921 when he led the American League in wins with a total of twenty-seven (27) and saves with a total of (7). Mays' batting average for the this particular year of 1921 is documented at an amazing .343
Only one true, but now rebuked, reason (from 1920) exists not to admit Carl Mays into the Hall Of Fame vs. many reasons to induct Carl Mays into the Hall Of Fame. We cannot deny there were a few other "rumors" of difficulties within the long career of Carl Mays, but, gossip and hearsay should no longer detour an official induction for Mays. A long anticipated deliverance of justice and deserved recognition of honor for one of Major League Baseball's greatest is crying out for exonerating rectification and for Mays' inclusion on the Early Baseball Era Ballot in the upcoming year of 2020.
Any genuine baseball historian certainly would possess knowledge of Mays forcing his way out of Boston in 1919 for which American League President Ban Johnson "secretly" suspended Mays while pursuing to ban Mays from the league. Political circumstances forced Johnson to "back down" and Mays, following his walk-out in Boston and friction with the league, was headed for the Yankees. Just one year later, the very same Ban Johnson found himself under extreme pressure from several teams to literally toss Mays out of baseball following the Chapman tragedy. But Johnson, evidently with a changed heart towards Mays, chose not to give in to such pressure. Despite his earlier disdain for Mays' issues in Boston, Johnson decided Mays was worthy to continue a career which lasted up until 1929.
In closing statements shared on behalf of the late Carl Mays, I ask Hall Of Fame decision makers to consider my case constructed with respectful request for a well deserved Early Baseball Era Ballot inclusion and also to consider a most historically known fact that a New York District Attorney of the time determined that the "incident was an accident." There was and never has been any legal charges filed against Carl Mays. And, most every witness to the accident confirmed, at the time, that "Chapman never moved an inch and seemed to have never even saw the ball."
Should we question if there were any investigations relative to alcohol being involved as inebriation has been long proven as a common denominator respective to a person's ability to react or not react in this case? Considering alcohol was an integral part of this early era of baseball for both players and fans alike, were any tests conducted to determine any potential levels of alcohol within Chapman? This with effort to rule out such consideration? From a medical viewpoint, would Chapman's chances to survive this accidental tragedy be considerably less in 1920 compared to modern times as it is most obvious the profession was not quite as advanced as it is today. If Chapman did survive this accident of tragedy, would Carl Mays be in Baseball's Hall Of Fame today?
The numerous and un-investigated cold case factors, if truly considered with some true depth of thought, should be enough to transcend this Early Era tragedy into a Modern Day public relations triumph.
I ask that Hall Of Fame decision makers consider Major League Baseball could have and should have carried either complete or, at the least, partial burden of fault as this same incident has no chance of happening today. Literally because the MLB would not even risk the legal ramifications of any hitter stepping up to the plate without protective head gear.
With those closing thoughts and on behalf of the family and friends of Carl Mays; the 1909 Hennessey (Oklahoma) Sluggers; the 1912 Boise (Idaho) Irrigators; the 1913 Portland (Oregon) Colts; the 1914 Providence (Rhode Island) Grays; the 1915-1919 Boston Red Sox; the 1919-1923 New York Yankees; the 1924-1928 Cincinnati Reds; the 1929 New York Giants and history adoring baseball fans past and present, I respectfully request one Carl William Mays be added to the Early Baseball Era Ballot in 2020 and honored with a posthumous induction into Baseball's Hall Of Fame within the year of 2022.
Authors Note: All information is researched with confidence of accuracy and compiled with effort to gain the support of Baseball Hall Of Fame decision makers for consideration of a posthumous 2020 Early Baseball Era Ballot inclusion of and a 2022 Baseball Hall Of Fame Induction of Carl "William" Mays. All images, moving and still, are utilized for the enhancement of presentation purposes only.