Friday, September 18, 2009

1976 Topps #210 - Lee May

  • Lee May had a pretty solid 18-year career for four teams from 1965-1982. Lee is the brother of former player Carlos May and his son (Lee May Jr.) is currently the hitting coach for the Akron Aeros. He had 100 or more RBI for three teams (Cincinnati, Houston, and Baltimore) -- he was one of only ten players to accomplish this.
  • May started in the Cincinnati Reds' system in 1961 and played in the minors through the 1966 season. He had a cup of coffee in Cincinnati in 1965 (0 for 4) and a couple of longer stints in 1966 (.333 in 75 at bats). Lee was in the majors to stay in 1967 and batted .265 with 12 home runs and 57 RBI.
  • In 1968 Lee started a streak in which he would hit 20 or more home runs every year from 1968-1978. He also had 80 or more RBI in each of those years. May batted .290 with 22 homers and 80 RBI in the pitching-dominated 1968 season. Here is a December 1968 Baseball Digest article about May. In 1969 May made his first NL All-Star team. He batted .278 with 38 HR and 110 RBI.
  • Lee had a slightly less productive year in 1970 (.253, 34 HR, 94 RBI) for the NL Champion Reds. On June 24, 1970 May hit the last home run in the history of Crosley Field. He batted .389 and hit 2 home runs in the 1970 World Series. He bounced back with another All Star appearance in 1971 and batted .278 with 39 homers and 98 RBI. After the 1971 season May was traded to the Houston Astros in a big trade that netted the Reds Joe Morgan, Jack Billingham, and Cesar Geronimo. Here is an March 1972 Baseball Digest article about why the Reds gave up May.
  • May's power numbers dropped a little bit in the Astrodome, but he still managed to hit 29 home runs, have 98 RBI, and bat .284 in 1972. He made his last All Star team and was 9th in NL MVP voting. In 1973 Lee batted .270 with 28 homers and 105 RBI. In 1974 Lee's numbers dropped a bit (.268, 24 HR, 85 RBI) and he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles after the season.
  • In 1975 May hit 20 home runs and knocked in 99 runs for the offensively challenged Orioles. Lee hit 25 homers and led the AL in RBI with 109 in 1976. In 1977 May hit 27 homers and had 99 RBI. It would be his last season as a starting first baseman -- Eddie Murray was coming on the scene and May would become the DH.
  • May had another strong season in 1978 (.246, 25 HR, 80 RBI) although his batting average was slipping. In 1979 Lee made his fewest appearances since 1966 as he played in only 124 games. He homered 19 times and had 69 RBI as the right-handed DH for the AL Champion Orioles. The DH wasn't used in the 1979 World Series so May only batted twice. Here is an August 1979 Baseball Digest article about the unrecognized Lee May.
  • In 1980 May played in only 78 games. He didn't have any significant gaps in his appearances, he just played 2-3 days a week. May homered only 7 times and had 31 RBI. After the 1980 season Lee was granted free agency and signed with the Kansas City Royals.
  • May was mostly a pinch hitter (with some occasional appearances at DH and 1B) in 1981 and 1982. He had good batting averages (.291 and .308) but had a total of 146 at bats for the two seasons. The Royals released May after the 1982 season and he retired.
  • Lee liked to face Steve Carlton (.323 in 62 AB) and Claude Osteen (.363 with 5 HR in 80 AB). He didn't like to face Gaylord Perry (.183 in 104 AB) and Phil Niekro (.207 in 82 AB).

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