MAYS, CARL WILLIAM (1891–1971).
Carl Mays started his baseball pitching career in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, and rose to earn a remarkable major league won-lost record of 207–126, including three World Series victories. Mays has not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he remains honored in Oklahoma, where his career started. He was born in Liberty, Kentucky, on November 12, 1891. His family moved to Missouri and then to Kingfisher in about 1903. He worked on the family farm and played baseball. After Mays and Kingfisher beat Hennessey, Mays joined the Hennessey Sluggers in 1909 and led the team to the title game. He won every game he pitched for the Sluggers and recorded a no-hitter. That high performance level eventually led him to the Boston Red Sox in 1915.
Mays's major league career lasted from 1915 to 1929. He became famous for pitching underhanded, with his pitches often rising high and tight against batters, and he was known as "Sub" for submarine. He pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1915 to 1919, winning 22 in 1917 and 21 in 1918. He was traded in 1919 to the New York Yankees, where he reached his peak with a 26–11 record in 1920 and 27–9 in 1921.
His fame, however, remains marred by a dramatic moment in August 1920, when his submarine inside pitch rose to strike Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman in the temple. That was before major league batters wore helmets. Chapman died the next day. Despite the threats of boycotting games that followed, Mays returned to the mound and shut out the Detroit Tigers 10–10. He continued to pitch for the Yankees until 1924 and later pitched for Cincinnati and the New York Giants.
Carl Mays retired from baseball in 1929 and lived out his life in and around Portland, Oregon. He retained his ties to Oklahoma through letters to friends in Kingfisher and Hennessey. He died on April 4, 1971, in El Cajon, California, and was buried in Portland. Although he remains known nationally for the Chapman tragedy, his record points to his skill as a pitcher, and he is now honored with an exhibit at the Chisholm Trail Museum in Kingfisher.
Baseball Encyclopedia (10th ed.; New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1996).
Bob Burke, Kenny A. Franks, and Royse Parr, Glory Days of Summer: The History of Baseball in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1999).
"Carl Mays," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Max Nichols, “Mays, Carl William,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=MA050.
© Oklahoma Historical Society.