By Father Gabe Costa
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Ms. Chloe Drummond is our guest blogger this week. In this installment of By The Numbers, she harkens back to the Roaring Twenties and recalls a most horrifying event.
Carl Mays was a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox starting in 1915. He pitched for the New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds, and ended his career with the New York Giants in 1929. He had 208 wins in 15 years in the Major Leagues and earned four World Series rings.
But many would say that the most memorable event in his career was one of the most famous pitches in the history of Major League Baseball. It’s one that unfortunately ended in the only death in Major League history. On August 16, 1920, Mays was pitching for the New York Yankees against the Cleveland Indians. Mays pitched a high fastball to Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman, a batter who had a reputation for crowding the plate. The pitch landed on Chapman’s left temple and eventually put Chapman into a coma. Chapman died the next day. This was the most tragic day in MLB history, and Chapman is the only player to ever die from an injury on the field.
Clearly, nothing is more important than human life. But many years later a question remains about Mays: Was this accident the reason why he was not voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame?
Mays was not known for his cheerful personality. One day in the City of Brotherly Love, for example, Mays threw a ball into a crowd of Athletics fans who were stomping on the visitor’s dugout. But is it fair to assess a baseball player’s personality when the primary requirement for induction into the Hall of Fame is the player’s performance on the field?
Eligibility, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, is primarily based on a player’s record during his time in the Major Leagues.
Statistically, Mays’ performance in baseball is within the range of statistics for current Hall of Famers. These statistics are shown in the table below:
“Average” HOF Pitcher
As you can see, Mays’ statistics are between the minimum and maximum of all the Hall of Famers’ statistics in these categories, with the exception of his strikeouts. One could argue that Mays may have been better if the death of Chapman had not happened.
While he was never really accused of purposely trying to hit Chapman, perhaps Mays may have played the remaining games of his career with a sense of more peace.
Have you ever heard the story of Carl Mays? Should he be a Hall of Famer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…