My 11-year-old was horrified. He couldn’t understand how we could have a meeting with the 1969 Sporting News Rookie of the Year and all his dad wanted to talk about with Carlos May was events surrounding the life of his older brother.
Well can you blame me? His older brother was the Big Bopper. Recall that nervous bat action swinging back and forth of one Lee Andrew May.
And it wasn’t just that he led the American League in RBIs (109) in 1976 for the Orioles. It was that he played a big part in one of the great moments in Orioles history. By the time he batted in the sixth inning of game one of the 1970 World Series, he had already rapped a hard single and two-run homer off future Hall-of-Famer Jim Palmer.
And then in the sixth, he hit another bullet down the third base line. Simply, Lee May was locked in. This time, however, the human vacuum cleaner, Brooks Robinson, snared it somehow and threw the shocked May out. Sports Illustrated called in one of the finest fielding plays in the game’s history.
Carlos May remembered that play as well.
Now a closer examination of Lee May’s most excellent baseball adventure starts with the city of Houston.
In the winter of 1971, the Astros made a gigantic mistake by sending May to the Reds. In the big trade went a second baseman named Joe Morgan, pitcher Jack Billingham and center field Cesar Geronimo. All the Reds gave up was Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart. And here I thought, the great Orioles teams were the only club that cheated other teams in lopsided trades.
Three years later, Houston decided it was time to get rid of May. We gave up Enos Cabell. I had a strange rhyming nickname for him which I can’t write here but Cabell wasn’t bad. Frankly, he was no Lee May, though.
I remember watching one Monday night game and May was blasting balls all over the field. Some producer showed off a full moon in the sky and the announcer correctly stated that’s how big the ball looked to Lee May.
He could really smash a baseball. From 1967 through 1979, May reached double figures in both homers and doubles. He finished his career with 354 career homers. He had one three-homer game in his career and 35 two-homer days. I guess the ball did look the size of the moon on several occasions during the career of Lee May.
Now May did appear in two World Series during his 18-year career. He tore the cover off the ball against the Orioles in 70 to no avail, so in the spirit of if you can’t beat them, join them, he saw action in the 79 Series with Baltimore. By this time, he had been replaced at first base by a youngster named Eddie Murray. May didn’t come off the bench until game four. And he struck out in his one at-bat.
For fun let’s go back to June 26, 1978. The late Mike Flanagan started. He didn’t get out of the second inning in Toronto. Joe Kerrigan faced 13 Blue Jays in relief and nine of them had hits. Put it this way, by the home half of the fifth inning, the Jays had 24 runs.
That didn’t stop May from having a good time. May had a single, double and two solo homers. He did not, however, pitch in this contest. Outfielder Larry Harlow was lit up by the Toronto offense but the late great catcher Elrod Hendricks pitched two quality innings probably because the Blue Jays hitters were laughing too hard to hit. Oh, the final was 24-10.