Lee May, the Big Bopper for the Reds, Dies at 74

Morgan became the catalyst for the Reds’ World Series titles in 1975 and 1976, seasons in which he was also named the National League’s most valuable player.

May was hurt by the trade, comparing it to being “kicked out of the house.”

Unlike Morgan, May was not a Hall of Famer, but he had a more than respectable career with the Reds, the Astros, the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals. In all, he hit 354 home runs, drove in 1,244 runs and batted .267. He played in three All-Star Games.

Like many sluggers, he also struck out a lot, peaking in 1972 with 145.

“He used to say that if he didn’t strike out 100 times a season, the Orioles wouldn’t think he was trying,” Ken Singleton, his teammate with the Orioles, said by telephone on Monday. Late one season, Singleton said, May approached him in the dugout smiling.

“I got it,” Singleton recalled May telling him. “I struck out my 100th time last time up. I’ll be back next year.”

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Lee in 1994 as the first-base coach for the Kansas City Royals, with pitcher David Cone.

Credit
Associated Press

Lee Andrew May Sr. was born in Birmingham, Ala., on March 23, 1943. His father, Tommy, a semipro ballplayer, and his mother, Mildred, were divorced when he was young. May played baseball in high school and was also a forward for the basketball team and a fullback for the football team. He considered a football scholarship at the University of Nebraska but chose baseball.

“Well, the Reds offered me money, and I felt I had a better chance in baseball,” May said in profile for the Society for American Baseball Research.

May rose steadily in the Reds’ organization after being drafted in 1961. He credited one manager, Red Davis, with helping him to harness his power by suggesting that he hit from a slightly crouched batting stance, and he credited another, the former pitcher Johnny Vander Meer, with converting him from an outfielder to a first baseman.

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In a 2007 reunion, May, from left, with former the Cincinnati Reds stars Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Sparky Anderson, Dave Concepcion (sitting), Tony Perez, George Foster and Ken Griffey Sr.

Credit
David Kohl/Associated Press..

“I threw sidearmed too much for an outfielder, and my throw would move too much from the target,” May told The Sporting News in 1966. He became a regular with the Reds in 1967.

May remained with Houston for three seasons before he was traded to Baltimore in late 1974. Singleton, who was dealt from the Montreal Expos to the Orioles a day after May, remembered May’s first at-bat for the Orioles, in an opening day victory in April 1975.

“We were in Detroit, and it was, like, 28 degrees,” Singleton said. “I was on third base, and he hit a three-run home run. And he turns to Earl Weaver” — the Orioles’ manager — “and says, `I think I’m going to like this league.’”

In addition to his wife, the former Terrye Perdue, who met him in elementary school, May is survived by his daughters Yelandra Daniels and Lisa Evans; his sons Lee May Jr., who played in minor league baseball and is currently a coach, and Derek Reid, who also played in the minor leagues; his brother, Carlos, who played 10 seasons in the major leagues; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

May retired after limited duty with Kansas City in 1982 and coached for the Royals, the Reds, the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now the Rays).

This year, Jacob May, one of his grandsons, made his debut with the Chicago White Sox. He is now playing for their top minor league team in Charlotte, N.C.

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