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  • Paul Semendinger

Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #568, Carlos May (Article 111)

by Paul Semendinger

(Continuing a series…)

***


I don't remember much of Carlos May as a Yankee. I became a fan in 1977, but I was a little kid, of course. I knew who the stars were, but I didn't know all the players.


As I recall, this card confused me a bit as a kid. Here was a baseball card, and it said that Carlos May was a Yankee, but he wasn't. I wondered how the card could be wrong.


I remember having that same question when I first looked through my first Yankees Yearbook, the 1977 one. My dad bought me the yearbook at my first ever Yankees game in May 1977. Pictured in the book was Marty Perez. But he wasn't on the team. I wondered, as an eight-year-old, how the Yankees could make such a mistake. I thought they should have reprinted the whole book to keep it accurate and updated.


I'm sure all fans from 1977 will also recall that that particular yearbook fell apart quite easily. The cover came off quickly, then the pages. It was not made all that well. As a young kid, I thought that it was my constant reading of the yearbook that made it so fragile, but I've since seen plenty of 1977 Yankees Yearbooks and so many suffered the same fate as mine.


Even though I pretty much don't collect baseball memorabilia any longer, I did purchase a 1977 yearbook in good condition for myself a few years ago. It was something I thought I needed to have. Of all the yearbooks, in spite of the shoddy quality, it remains my favorite.


But what of Carlos May?


To start, for most of 1977, the card wasn't wrong. Carlos May was a Yankee until mid-September when he was purchased by the California Angels, just weeks before the post season. Maybe that's where my confusion came - as I watched the Yankees in the World Series, I wondered where Carlos May was. He had to be on the team, I had the baseball card, from that year, that said he was.


I'm sure I wondered why the Yankees didn't just keep him. If he was a Yankee, I figured, he had to be a star. All the Yankees were stars to me. They were like the Superfriends. Each one was great! And Carlos May wasn't just a good player, he was also pictured on a baseball card with his brother Lee May. If a guy was one two cards, he had to be extra good (or so I reasoned). I didn't understand at the time that teams could only keep a certain amount of players. I figured all the good players should be Yankees. (Hummm, I still think that way!)


***

That first game I ever went to at Yankee Stadium was on May 7, 1977. It was a special game. I went to the game with my father and our two neighbors from across the street - two teenagers who I always looked up to so much so that they are, most certainly, the reason I even became a Yankees fan. Their favorite player was Roy White. Roy White homered in that game. My favorite player was Graig Nettles. He also homered. The Yankees won 11-2 over the Oakland A's. It was a great start to a lifetime of fandom.


Carlos May also played in that game. He batted eighth and was the designated hitter. He went 0-for-5. My dad kept score. I have the scorecard, of course. There was so much happening around me, and I was so in awe of the whole experience, that I'm sure I didn't pay much attention to Carlos May's poor day.


***

Carlos May was a heck of a player for a good while. He arrived in the big leagues in 1968 with the White Sox and played with them until May 1976 when he was traded to the Yankees for Ken Brett and Rich Coggins. (Ken Brett got a TRADED card in the 1976 Topps set. I don't think Rich Coggins ever did. And neither did Carlos May.)


May was an All-Star for the White Sox in 1969 and 1972. He was third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1969. He received MVP votes in 1972 and 1973. He had some very good years:

  • 1969 = .281/19/62

  • 1970 = .285/12/68

  • 1971 = .294/7/70

  • 1972 = .308/12/68

  • 1973 = .268/20/96

From 1969 through 1973, May averaged .287/16/86 per 162 games. In that era, at that time, those were very good numbers.


Carlos May's batting average and homers dropped after 1973. From 1973 through 1975, he averaged just .259/9/65. He was batting only .175 in 1976 when the White Sox sent him to the Yankees.


As a Yankee, Carlos May had a bit of a resurgence. In 87 games for the eventual AL Champs, he batted .278. He only had 3 homers, but he did drive in 40 runs.


In the playoffs, though, he went just 2-for-10. He then went 0-for-9 in his only World Series.


***

Late in the 1977 season, on September 15, the Yankees traded for Dave Kingman. This was a strange season for Kingman; the Yankees were his fourth team that year. He began the year as a New York Met and also played for the San Diego Padres and the California Angels. I believe he is still the only player to play for a team in each of the Major Leagues' four divisions in one calendar year. Kingman was a Yankee for only eight games, but he did hit four home runs in that brief cameo.


Kingman's arrival signaled the end of Carlos May's tenure. The day after the Yankees acquired Kingman from the Angels, they sold Carlos May back to them. May had struggled in 1977 with the Yankees batting only .227 with just two homers.


May played in 11 games for the Angels. He went 6-for-18 (.333), but then that was the end of his big league career. From 1978 through 1981, Carlos May played for the Nankai Hawks in the Japanese Professional Baseball League. May's first three years in Japan were excellent:

  • 1978 - .312/12/80

  • 1979 - .307/26/75

  • 1980 - .326/27/75

May's career ended after the 1981 season (.259/5/22) in Japan.

***

Carlos May's last big league homer came in Chicago (while playing for the Yankees) on June 5, 1977. The Yankees won that game 8-6. Oscar Gamble hit a homer for the White Sox. The Yankees hit six home runs in that game. Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Reggie Jackson all homered as did Carlos May, Bucky Dent, and George Zeber.


In his last Major League at bat, Carlos May had a pinch hit single off Dennis Leonard.










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