In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.
The word association most fans make upon hearing "Carl Mays" is "Ray Chapman," the Cleveland Indian killed by a ball pitched by Mays on Aug. 16, 1920.
In reading microfilm of the March 31, 1938, issue of The Sporting News, I found a less well-known fact about the submariner.
According to Al Demaree's "Diamond Glints" cartoon feature, Mays had an incredible mastery of the Philadelphia A's in his nine seasons in the American League, (Boston 1915-19, N.Y. Yankees 1919-23).
Mays' record against the A's was 35-3, a winning percentage of .921. From 1919-22, Mays never lost to the A's, winning 21 in that stretch.
1915: 2-0. Mays was credited with a win over the Athletics in his first major league appearance. He pitched the final three innings of a 5-3 win in Philadelphia on April 15, 1915.
1916 4-1. Among his four wins over the A's in 1916, Mays won both ends of the June 24 double-header in Boston. He came into the game in the top of the 9th inning after Babe Ruth had pinch-hit of starter Dutch Leonard. Mays held the score to 2-1, then got the win when Boston scored a pair in the bottom of the inning. He started the second game and won 3-7.
1917: 2-0. In his first game against Philadelphia in 1917, Mays started the contest on April 19. He held the A's scoreless through six innings, then gave up a run in the seventh and two in the eighth. He was pulled with one out in the ninth. Herb Pennock got the loss when the A's scored a run in the bottom of the 12th inning.
1918: 5-1. After Babe Ruth had won the season opener on April 15, Mays defeated the A's 1-0 on one hit on the 16th. While the A's got nine hits off him on the 25th, Mays got a complete-game 6-1 win. Mays again one-hit the A's on June 21, winning 13-0; it was his third consecutive shutout in nine days. Mays' only loss to the A's came at Shibe Park in the second game of the July 4 doubleheader. He gave up only one run through 10 innings, but the Red Sox only managed one run. He lost the game when the A's scored in the bottom of the 11th. Mays won his 20th game of 1918 with a 12-0 shutout of Philadelphia at Fenway on Aug. 30. He won his 21st the same day, with a complete-game 4-1 victory in the second game of the DH.
1919: 3-0. The Red Sox' season started late in 1919; Mays pitched the opener at Yankee Stadium, defeating New York 10-1. He first faced the A's on May 29, winning 7-1 in a complete game. He last pitched against Philadelphia as a Red Sox on July 7, being credited with a save. On July 30, Mays was traded to the Yankees. He first pitched against the A's wearing the New York pinstripes on Aug. 31 and won a 6-0 shutout. His last appearance on the mound that season was a complete-game 8-2 win on Sept. 26.
1920: 5-0. All of Mays' wins over Philadelphia in 1920 were complete-game efforts; the last three were shutouts, though he gave up as many as six hits.
1921: 7-0. Mays had his best season against Philadelphia in 1921, beginning on opening day with an 11-1 victory. On the penultimate day of the season, he and Babe Ruth beat the A's in both games of the Oct. 1 doubleheader. It was Mays' 27th win of the season, leading the major leagues. Ruth's 7-6 win marked his final appearance on the mound until 1930. He started the game in left field then went to the mound in the eighth with the Yankees leading 6-0. Ruth gave up six earned runs and nine hits, earning the win when New York scored in the last of the 11th inning.
1922: 6-0. Mays was again perfect against the A's in 1922. The first of his six wins took him 11 innings to notch the 6-4 victory on April 24. He followed that on May 6 with a two-hit shutout.
1923: 1-1. In his last year in the American League, Mays had three no-decisions against the A's in the month of May. His only win over Philadelphia came near the end of July. On Oct. 4, he lost 6-7, giving up 10 hits in five innings in his last appearance as a Yankee. After the season he was sold to the Cincinnati Reds.
After five years with the Reds, Mays played his final big-league season in 1929 with the N.Y. Giants. He retired with a lifetime 207-126 record (.622 winning percentage) and 2.92 ERA.
He'd had five seasons winning 20 or more games.