Gary Mays, One Armed American Hero

“Arms are for pussies.”

~Gary Mays

A lot can be established about how great of an American you are by the nickname you’re able to earn.  Andrew Jackson was called “Old Hickory” because he beat the shit out of people with a hickory cane.  Hawkeye on M*A*S*H got his nickname due to a book that, though we’ve not read because, come on, we assume has to be about killing Indians since it’s called “The Last of the Mohicans.”  Lou Gehrig was called “The Iron Horse” because that’s just fucking awesome.

We here at AFFotD try, with limited success, to fashion appropriately badass American nicknames.  One of our staff writers just goes by “Hood” because he wears a hood over his head every day, which is sort of annoying, but the name stuck at least.  One of our accountants tried to get people to call him Fucksaw, but that never caught on.  Kiefer Sutherland only goes by the nickname “Jack fucking Bauer” and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

And when it comes to nicknames, and Americans, few top that of Gary “Bandit” Mays, a man who managed to get the awesome nickname normally only reserved for Burt Reynolds without having ever played professional sports.  Of course, this two sport athlete, who went toe-to-toe with Elgin Baylor, was a top prep star catcher who was a finalist for finalist for Washington D.C.’s best baseball prep star of the year, was unable to find luck in the big leagues, due to the prejudices of the world in the 1950’s.  As a black man, he was subjugated and unable to show his potential to the world.

He also had only one fucking arm, but trust us when we say that racial prejudice was the only thing that held him back.


Gary Mays is what comes to mind when we use the Germanic term, “Badass.”  After losing his left arm in a shotgun accident at the age of five, Mays decided, “fuck it,” and went about being the best all around athlete he could be.  He remains a folk figure to this day in Washington D.C., where he still resides.  This is the man that guarded a future hall-of-fame Basketball star in high school, and held him to just 18 points to help his team win.  And basketball wasn’t even his best sport.  He was a baseball phenom.  While there has been a one armed professional ballplayer in the past (Jim Abbott, respect) he was a pitcher, which requires far less fielding, batting, and other things people generally assume you’d need two hands for.

Gary Mays, deciding that pitching was for chumps, decided to be a catcher.  A fucking catcher.  Not only was he a catcher, he was a good one- in his senior year in high school, he batted .375, threw out every base runner that tried to steal on him, and had no errors.  With one arm.  Holy shit.

He ended up turning down invitations to join the Harlem Globetrotters, deciding he didn’t want to be paraded around like a freak show, and when he went to a scouting camp for Major League baseball, despite hitting the only home run in the camp (yeah, that’s right, with one arm) and being named the MVP of the entire session, he did not receive any offers from major league teams.  And so, all we are left with are the stories of a man with one arm who gets more use out of it than most of us get out of our whole bodies.

7 responses to “Gary Mays, One Armed American Hero

  1. Gary Mays is a super hero!

  2. Ed & Annette Brown

    What can we say…Gary Mays is a “one in a million guy.” live him!! Ed & Annette

  3. Arvell Cuffey

    September 1944, @ Logan Elementary School, Wash, DC,
    I saw for the first time a 1 arm older kid (than I) playing catcher position
    for this baseball team. I felt sorry for him because he was going to get hurt.
    I soon forgot about him getting hurt. He would catch the ball from the pitcher
    with his glove, throw the ball up, put his glove under his nub, catch the ball and
    throw the ball, all in a few seconds. He was so fast, you didn’t steal bases on him.
    At Spingarn High School, 1954, I watched him & Rabbit (Elgin Baylor) go at it
    playing basketball. That’s was show time for real, that will never happen again.
    I saw him at Bobby Lee’s funeral June 4, 2015 & we smiled & saying “Hey Man”.
    That’s my Hero – One-Arm Bandit. by Arvell Cuffey

  4. Great story Garrett ! I’m just so glad I had the opportunity and privilege to witness your exploits, in person, when I was a young kid at Banneka JHS playground in the 1950s in Washington, DC. I’m also so glad to see you’re still going strong, today. We thank you for your service and duty as Sergeant-at-Arms, National Association Concerned Veterans (NACV). I (we) respect and am(are) glad to be considered your confidant and friend.

    Alfred (Al May) May

  5. YOU HAD TO SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT, That is Gary Mays. I was fortunate because Gary came to Kelly Miller Playground to play basketball. I did not know that Armstrong High School had a beat on every basketball player that played for the police boys Clubs and recreation centers in DC. When Gary would play at Kelly Miller, There would be about 200-300 people there to see him play. Gary was the first 3 point shooter who shot near the division line . He had a very high arch on his shot that would touch nothing but net. The Afro American Newspaper published an article on his shooting technique. Not only was he a shooter, but he could drive to the basket ,dribble, pass, ,play defense and shoot free-throws. He was a team player that did not do a lot of talking . If you were on his team you better keep an eye on the ball because he was a terrific passer.
    This recognition is so deserving to Gary , it is something that he earned for his contributions.
    I know Sleepy, Tony, Shorty, Zack, Bob Cousey, Bay Junior, Sam Fountain, Thin Man, Twig, Juice, Harold Smith, Buzzy, Bud Powell, Sandy, Earl RSwingarn, Daddy Grace,. Dickie , Willie, Ed Well, Ben D, Mel Jones, Mel Chambers, Lucky ford, Bronco, Sweet Harry, etc. who had the golden opportunity to play with Gary are also proud of him. I am happy for this opportunity. CONGRADULATIONS, DEE WILLIAMS

  6. Gary was a positive male for so many youngster at Rosedale playground in the late 50tys to the 60tys. He was an all around supporter in all sports. He gave to me in my developing years. Thanks to a man of the community.

  7. Great Story, growing up in Washington DC during the 1950’s and working as a camp counselor for the DC Metro. Police Boys Club No. 2, Gary Mays, Elgin Baylor, and Willie Woodson was the talk of the late Jabbo Kenner who was a teacher in the love of his followman and gave to us younger kids what we could do -” if Gary Mays could do it with one arm he said then should do with all you had.” THANKS Gary Mays you – r- the – man.

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