Unforgettable “The One Arm Bandit” a Renaissance Man!
By Harold Bell (Posted January 21, 2018)
On January 15, 2018 Gary Mays went home to be with the Lord, he was 82 years old. His home going services will be held at the 19th Street Baptist Church. located at 4606 16th Street NW Washington, DC. The date: Saturday January 27, 2018. Viewing 10:00 am with the funeral service to follow at 11:00 am.
It has been said “Don’t ever look back because someone might be gaining on you.” Gary never looked back.
In February 2011, I coordinated and hosted a series of Black History Moments in Sports at Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, DC. Much of the series was spend honoring unsung heroes in the DC Black Community where our history is often skipped over and chronicled by folks who don’t have a clue. For example, did you know Ms. Jeannette Huston Harris the “Historian” for the Nation’s Capitol is from Kentucky?
In February 1926 the legendary and great writer/poet Carter G. Woodson gave us Black History Week and in 1976 Black History Week evolved into Black History Month. This disproves the myth of White folks giving us the shortest month of the year. The month of February and the annual tribute was a Black man’s idea!
The most popular tribute at Ben’s Chili Bowl was the one paid to Gary Mays who as a young child had his left arm blown off by an accidental blast from a shotgun, he was 5 years old.
Photo: Gary attending a tribute and shares a laugh with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon during a tribute to Mays.
Gary moved to Washington, DC from West Virginia at the age of twelve. His story of growing up on the tough streets and playgrounds of Washington, DC should be on a movie screen.
He had a double whammy growing up he was a black male child and had one arm. Gary grew up in NW DC in a neighborhood where it would have been a challenge for a two armed kid.
The bullies that he encountered would make today’s bullies look like choir boys. Thanks to a knockout punch in his powerful right arm and hand allowed him to take names and kick ass.
The powerful punch was developed early thanks to his uncle Charles Aubrey who was a semi-pro baseball catcher in West Virginia. During backyard catch games Gary was on the receiving end of his uncle’s many fast balls thrown high and sometimes low and in the dirt. This daily drill helped to prepare him as young kid to be a one of a kind athlete.
When Gary left for D.C. to live with his mother, one of his Uncle Charles’ teammates gave him a parting gift, it was a baseball glove. The rest is baseball history and what legends are made of today.
Once he had arrived in DC he started playing organized baseball at the age of thirteen with young men years older on a team called the Georgetown Panthers.
Gary picked Armstrong Technical High school to take his athletic skills to the next level. He was already a playground legend and still his baseball coach Major Robinson was a skeptic. He didn’t think Gary could make his team. But it didn’t take him long to make a believer out of Coach Robinson.
He was not only a feared catch but was a power hitter his bat was just as feared as his throwing arm.
Photo Credit: Gary Mays only photos courtesy Gary Mays