Not a ton of people are familiar with the story of Carl Mays these days, but know this much: he threw a pitch that killed a guy once. It was the only time a Major Leaguer has been killed on the field. The whole story, as written at the time, can be read here. In an environment where beer-throwers inspire media firestorms, one can only wonder what would have happened to Mays if, instead of killing Ray Chapman in 1920, he had killed Grady Sizemore in 2009.
Not that Mays didn’t suffer scorn in his lifetime. He never truly lived it down, despite having an otherwise fine career. But time heals all wounds, and some folks are now trying their best to rehabilitate the guy:
Eighty-nine years later, a handful of people are trying to get him recognized for what was one of the best careers of his era, long overshadowed by baseball’s only lethal pitch. Their goal is to have Mays enshrined in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s time he got recognized for his accomplishments, not just for this one accident,” said Ann Duckworth of Mansfield, the tiny Ozarks town where Mays was raised and spent many offseasons.
I guess everyone needs a hobby, but Mays doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy you want to go to the mat for. In addition to the Ray Chapman incident, Mays was long-rumored to have been in on a plot to fix the 1921 World Series, though it was never proven. He was also an ornery cuss, who many people didn’t like separate and apart from the fact that he killed a guy many people did like.
The Veterans Committee of the Hall of Fame — the real one, not just the Missouri one — is still considering him. I don’t get the sense that there’s any traction behind his case, and that’s probably how it should be.