Lee May

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Lee May
First baseman
Born: (1943-03-23) March 23, 1943 (age 70)
Birmingham, Alabama
Batted: RightThrew: Right
MLB debut
September 1, 1965 for the Cincinnati Reds
Last MLB appearance
September 24, 1982 for the Kansas City Royals
Career statistics
Batting average.267
Home runs354
Runs batted in1,244
Teams
Career highlights and awards
 
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Lee May
First baseman
Born: (1943-03-23) March 23, 1943 (age 70)
Birmingham, Alabama
Batted: RightThrew: Right
MLB debut
September 1, 1965 for the Cincinnati Reds
Last MLB appearance
September 24, 1982 for the Kansas City Royals
Career statistics
Batting average.267
Home runs354
Runs batted in1,244
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Lee Andrew May (born March 23, 1943 in Birmingham, Alabama) is a former first baseman/designated hitter in Major League Baseball. From 1965 through 1982, May played for the Cincinnati Reds (1965–71), Houston Astros (1972–74), Baltimore Orioles (1975–80), and Kansas City Royals (1981–82). He batted and threw right-handed. He is the brother of former Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees outfielder Carlos May. May (nicknamed "The Big Bopper") hit 20 or more home runs and 80 or more RBIs in 11 consecutive seasons.[1] May also made three appearances in the MLB All-Star games including being named the starting first baseman for the National League team in 1972.[2]

High School[edit]

May was a standout in both baseball and football at A.H. Parker High School in Birmingham. A fullback on the varsity football team, May was offered a scholarship at the University of Nebraska. But the Cincinnati Reds organization were also interested in him and signed May to a contract with a $12,000 bonus on June 1, 1961 as an amateur free agent.[3][4]

Minor League Career[edit]

May began his professional career in 1961 with the Tampa Tarpons in the Florida State League, a D-league affiliate of the Reds. He played two years in Tampa before moving up to the Rocky Mount Leafs in the Class A Carolina League. The following year he was again promoted, this time to the Macon Peaches in the Class AA Southern League.[5] At all three stops, May, like many black players, endured racist taunts not only from an opposing team's white fans but from the fans of his own team as well.[6] May hated his time in Macon, Georgia the most. Not only did he hear racist epithets, but he also had to avoid thrown bottles. Fortunately, May's emergence in 1964, allowed him to be promoted the following year to the San Diego Padres, who were then in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. During his only season with the Padres, May was one of the best players in the league. He hit 34 home runs while driving in 103 runs and hitting .321. He was called up briefly to the Reds at the end of season but then moved to the Reds new Class AAA International League team, the Buffalo Bisons in 1966. A solid AAA season at Buffalo led to his permanent major league promotion.[7]

Cincinnati Reds 1965-1971[edit]

May broke camp as a full-time member of the Reds in 1967. That season, May was named NL Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News.[8] He was also named to the Topps All-Star rookie team. [9] The next two years saw much of the construction of the future The Big Red Machine. Along with Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and Pete Rose, May helped power arguably one of baseball's great offenses. In 1969, he finished the year with 38 home runs, 3rd in the National League. He also had 110 RBIs which was 4th in the league. May was also 2nd in extra base hits, 4th in total bases, 6th in slugging percentage and 6th in doubles.[10] Also in 1969, May had three consecutive multi-home run games, a feat that has only happened three other times in major league history.[11]

Teammate Tommy Helms nicknamed May "The Big Bopper of Birmingham" (which later was shortened to "The Big Bopper"). During his time in Cincinnati, May was one of the clubhouse leaders for the Reds. With his pragmatic personality and comic sense of timing, manager Sparky Anderson often called on May to put out clubhouse fires. [12]

In 1970, the Reds pounded nearly everyone into submission. Batting in the fifth slot, May delivered 94 runs batted in. On June 24, 1970, May hit the last home run in the history of Crosley Field during the park's final game. The game-winning shot came in the eighth inning off San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal.[13]

May was the only member of The Big Red Machine to produce in the 1970 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. Pete Rose batted .250, MVP winner Johnny Bench hit .211, and Tony Perez slumped to .056. May, on the other hand, batted .389 with two home runs and eight RBI (a World Series record for a five-game series at the time [14]) . In game four, the Orioles were leading 5-3 in the 8th inning and looking to sweep the series. The Reds had two baserunners on when May came to the plate against Eddie Watt. May hit a ball into the left field bleachers at Memorial Stadium (Baltimore) to lead the Reds to their one and only victory of the series.[15]

Although the Reds slumped in 1971, May continued to slug away, hitting 39 home runs (3rd in the NL) and driving in 98 RBIs (6th in NL). [16] Consequently, May was named the Reds MVP for the 1971 season. [17]

Houston Astros 1972-1974[edit]

With the Reds needing to shore up their infield defense and add speed on the basepaths and seeing Tony Pérez and May as essentially the same type of player (right-handed power hitters), the Reds sent May to the Houston Astros for future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. The Astros, badly in need of power after finishing last in the NL in home runs in 1971, completed a trade with the Reds on November 29, 1971 that sent second baseman Morgan, pitcher Jack Billingham, infielder Denis Menke, outfielder César Gerónimo and minor leaguer Ed Armbrister for May, second baseman Tommy Helms and utility man Jimmy Stewart.

May brought much-needed power to the Astro line-up. Although his power numbers dropped in the Astrodome, the toughest ballpark to hit a home run in the National League,[18] he continued to drive in runs on a regular basis. His 105 RBI in 1973 was second in the league.[19] During the 1973 season, May set an Astro club record with a 21-game hitting streak. It was during this streak he hit three home runs in one game (also a club record) and collected his 1000th base hit. [20] On April 29, 1974, May became the 17th player in MLB history to hit two home runs in one inning.[21]

Baltimore Orioles 1975-1980[edit]

On December 23, 1974, May was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, along with minor league outfielder Jay Schlueter for infielder/outfielder Enos Cabell and second baseman Rob Andrews.

May took an immediate liking to the American League. In his first at bat in the junior circuit, he hit a three-run home run at Tiger Stadium. [22] In his first appearance at Boston's Fenway Park, May crushed two three-run home runs over the park's famed Green Monster including a game-winning shot. [23][24]

In 1976, May enjoyed his best season as an Oriole. He hit 25 home runs and led the American League in RBI with 109. [25] For his effort, May won the Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award. [26]

In his last three seasons with the Orioles, May was primarily used as a designated hitter to make room for a young Eddie Murray at first base. Although May was a major contributor in 1979 with 19 homers and 69 RBI, in the 1979 World Series, he only came to bat twice because the DH was not used in that series.

Kansas City Royals1981-1982[edit]

After being allowed to leave the Orioles via free agency after the 1980 season, May signed with the Royals as part-time 1B/DH/pinch hitter. Despite hitting .308 in only 48 games in 1982, the 39 year old May was released by the team in November and he decided to call it a career.

Following his release from the Royals, he was hired back as the team's hitting coach and earned a World Series ring as part of the 1985 World Series championship team.[27]

Overall Career[edit]

In his 18-season career, May posted a .267 batting average, with 354 home runs, 1244 runs batted in, and 2031 hits in 2071 games. May was prone to strike out; 10 times he fanned more than 100 times in a season and compiled 1,570 in his career. However, he is one of 11 major leaguers to reach the 100-RBI plateau playing for three teams, the others being Dick Allen, Joe Carter, Orlando Cepeda, Rocky Colavito, Goose Goslin, Rogers Hornsby, Reggie Jackson, Al Simmons, Vic Wertz, and Alex Rodriguez.[citation needed]

In 2006, May was elected to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. [28]

Family[edit]

Lee May and his wife, Terrye,[29][30] have three children and nine grandchildren. His son, Lee May, Jr., was a New York Mets first-round pick in 1986,[31] worked as the hitting coach for the AAA Columbus Clippers, and is currently serving as the Seattle Mariners roving minor league hitting coordinator. Lee May Jr.'s son Jacob May played baseball at Coastal Carolina University. Jacob was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 3rd round 91st overall in the 2013 MLB Draft on June 7, 2013.

Literary References[edit]

May was featured in a Sports Illustrated story about TV character Sam Malone (played by Ted Danson) from the show Cheers. Fictitiously, Malone was a former major league pitcher who served up a pitch that May crushed all the way out of Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. [32]

May was also mentioned in a chapter about the Kingdome in the book Notes From a 12th Man: A Truly Biased History of the Seattle Seahawks. [33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Lee_May_1943
  2. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mayle01.shtml
  3. ^ Sport Magazine August 1972 "Lee May: The Man Behind the Astros' Surge"
  4. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mayle01.shtml
  5. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=may---002lee
  6. ^ Sport Magazine August 1972 "Lee May: The Man Behind the Astros' Surge"
  7. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=may---002lee
  8. ^ http://baseballstats.tripod.com/history/sportingnewsrookie.html
  9. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/1967_Topps_All-Star_Rookie_Team
  10. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mayle01.shtml
  11. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/statitudes/news/2003/06/08/by_the_numbers/
  12. ^ http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/hof/hof/directory.jsp?hof_id=118474
  13. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CIN/CIN197006240.shtml
  14. ^ http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/hof/hof/directory.jsp?hof_id=118474
  15. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1970_WS.shtml
  16. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CIN/1971.shtml
  17. ^ http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/hof/hof/directory.jsp?hof_id=118474
  18. ^ Smith, Curt (2001). Storied Stadiums. New York City: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-1187-6.
  19. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mayle01.shtml
  20. ^ http://www.astrosdaily.com/history/hitstreak.html
  21. ^ http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/rare_feats/index.jsp?feature=two_homers_inning
  22. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/DET/DET197504100.shtml
  23. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2002&dat=19750419&id=cdwqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GNoFAAAAIBAJ&pg=3689,4390344
  24. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS197504180.shtml
  25. ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mayle01.shtml
  26. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=RZqIymchVKwC&pg=PA181&lpg=PA181&dq=lee+may+most+valuable+oriole+1976&source=bl&ots=8wGN6Jol1H&sig=vxJ9aHRIfMgPSKyaJfGPm4I59AQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=PyvBUezuBImSiAKalYGABA&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=lee%20may%20most%20valuable%20oriole%201976&f=false
  27. ^ http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/card-corner-1972-topps-lee-may/
  28. ^ http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/hof/hof/directory.jsp?hof_id=118474
  29. ^ http://photophil.smugmug.com/Photojournalism/The-Scene/4366023_4GTj4s/256284099_v8X7bwg#!i=256284099&k=v8X7bwg
  30. ^ http://reds.enquirer.com/2000/07/19/red_perezs_major-league.html
  31. ^ "Lee May Jr.". Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  32. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1138636/3/index.htm
  33. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Notes-12-Man-History-Seahawks/dp/1570616027

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Rocky Colavito
Kansas City Royals Hitting Coach
1984-1986
Succeeded by
Hal McRae
Preceded by
Tony Pérez
Cincinnati Reds First Base Coach
1988-1989
Succeeded by
Tony Pérez
Preceded by
José Cardenal
Tampa Bay Rays First Base Coach
2001-2002
Succeeded by
Billy Hatcher