“Mays specializes in the use of the ‘submarine’ ball. He’s a righthander who, during his college days, acquired a style that reminds one of Joe McGinnity. Mays throws his fastball practically from the ground and the sphere travels upward but breaks down as it reaches the plate.” The State Journal [Lansing, MI], September 23, 1916, p10 (Article appeared in other papers as well.)
“John Tyler was caught by ‘The Courant’ photographer while he was preparing to deliver his famous submarine ball. It is called the submarine ball because the batsman don’t know how far it will come up when it gets to the plate.” Hartford Courant photo caption, April 21, 1904, p2.
- NOTE: It’s not clear that this earlier use has the same meaning. The pitcher is shown with his hand over his head, but that doesn’t preclude a windup that leads to an underhand delivery.
Previous earliest use (Dickson Baseball Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2009):
1ST USE. 1917. “Boston’s Submarine Pitcher [Carl Mays] Gets Four Hits to Win Own Game by 6 to 5 Score” (The New York Times headline, Sept. 15).