Carl Mays had to live with the very sad fact that his fast-rising submarine ball had caused modern major league baseball’s first fatality. Pitching for the Yankees on August 16, 1920, decades before the advent of the batting helmet, Mays cracked the skull of Cleveland’s Ray Chapman; Chapman, crowding the plate, froze in the path of the pitch. He died the next day. Ty Cobb, in particular, made life as miserable as he could for Mays over the tragedy, but the pitcher learned to live with it. He had remarkable self-confidence, especially under stress.
Mays was occasionally used as a reliever (31-13, 27 saves). He actually pitched mostly in relief as a 1915 Boston rookie, leading the AL with five relief wins and seven saves. He followed his 22-9 (1.74) record in 1917 with a 21-13 mark in 1918, tying for the league lead in complete games and shutouts. That August 30, he threw two complete-game victories over Philadelphia, allowing only one run. In the 1918 World Series, he went the distance in winning a pair of 2-1 games over the Cubs. But in 1919, disgruntled over what he thought was lack of support from his teammates (he was 5-11), he demanded a trade. Thus began the great parade of Red Sox players to the Yankees.
Mays went 26-11 with a league-best six shutouts for New York in 1920. In 1921, he led the AL in games and innings pitched, victories and winning percentage (27-9, .750), and tied for the lead in saves. He also batted .343. Though he pitched well in the WS, he went 1-2 in the Yankees’ loss to the Giants. After going 5-2 in 1923, he was sold the Reds, for whom he went 20-9 in 1924, and 19-12, with a league-high 24 complete games, in 1926. He finished his ML career as a reliever with the Giants, going 7-2. His lifetime batting average of .268 made him one of the best-hitting pitchers ever. He went on to scout for the Indians, A’s, and Braves.