2017-07-31 15:37:52 UTC
Lee May, 'Big Bopper from Birmingham,' dead at age 74
Updated on July 30, 2017 at 2:10 PM, Posted on July 30, 2017 at 2:02 PM
By Mark Inabinett
A three-sport standout at A.H. Parker High School in Birmingham, Lee May had the
opportunity to play football at Nebraska as a hard-nosed fullback. He chose
baseball instead and went on to become a three-time National League All-Star at
The Baltimore Orioles announced on Sunday that May died on Saturday at age 74.
"The Big Bopper from Birmingham" is a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame,
the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.
Modeling his baseball swing after his favorite player, slugger Harmon Killebrew,
May hit 354 Major League home runs for the Reds, Orioles, Houston Astros and
Kansas City Royals.
May is one of the 11 players in MLB history to have at least 100 RBIs in a
season for three franchises, reaching a high of 110 for the Reds in 1969 and
leading the American League with 109 for the Orioles in 1976.
May played in two World Series - with the Reds in 1970 and the Orioles in 1979 -
but it was his trade that launched Cincinnati into prominence in the 1970s.
Cincinnati won 102 games in 1970, but lost to the Orioles in the World Series.
After the Reds dropped to a 79-83 record in 1971, they traded May to the Houston
Astros in a blockbuster deal.
Cincinnati sent May, second baseman Tommy Helms and utility infielder Jimmy
Stewart to Houston for second baseman Joe Morgan, third baseman Denis Menke,
pitcher Jack Billingham and outfielders Cesar Geronimo and Ed Armbrister.
In the five seasons after the trade, "The Big Red Machine" never won fewer than
95 games and reached the World Series four times. All the players obtained in
the trade for May played some role in Cincinnati's success, and Morgan was the
National League's MVP in 1975 and 1976 on his way to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
During his career, May played in 2,071 games and had 959 runs, 2,031 hits, 340
doubles, 31 triples, 354 home runs, 1,244 RBIs, .267 batting average and .459
slugging percentage. He recorded 11 consecutive seasons in which he had at least
20 home runs and 80 RBIs.
May was an All-Star selection for the Reds in 1969 and 1971 and for the Astros
in 1972. May's brother, Carlos May, played in the big leagues from 1968 through
1977 and was a two-time American League All-Star.
The cause of death was not announced.