Monday, September 8, 2008

HOF: Carl Mays?

Carl Mays is another of the short-list candidates for the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee. They're going to decide this fall whether he should be inducted posthumously for baseball's ultimate honor.

A lot of people, including the pitcher himself, have said that if it were not for a fateful afternoon in 1920, Mays would be in the Hall of Fame. He was an outstanding pitcher, a five-time 20-game winner who ranked among the league’s best pitchers for much of his career, mostly with the Red Sox and Yankees. However, he will always be remembered for one thing: throwing the underhand fastball—not a spitball, as some have suggested—that killed Indians shortstop Ray Chapman.

But that’s not the only reason he’s not in the Hall of Fame. Fred Lieb, a former member of the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee, said that during discussions of Mays, the Chapman incident never came up. What actually kept him out were the allegations—never proven but convincing to many—that Mays threw a game in the 1921 World Series.

In all, the picture of Mays is not a pretty one. He was a bitter, resentful man who was already one of the least-liked players in the league before the Chapman incident, who angered managers and teammates with a troublemaker attitude that probably curtailed his career, and who, sadly, wished he could make the world forget that one of his pitches accidentally killed a fellow major leaguer.

The fact that the Veterans Committee is re-evaluating Mays after previously rejecting him is curious. Even though he had a number of very good years, he finished with only 207 career victories, very low on the HOF spectrum. Bert Blyleven won 287 games during a time of 5-man rotations, yet he has fallen short. There's no way that Mays belongs in while Blyleven (and others) are shut out.

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