Skip to main content
Original Issue

Call him Willie—or Carlos or Lee. Everybody does

The time: one night in late August. The place: various ball parks in both major leagues. The bag: total confusion. Rudy May is on the mound for the California Angels and will be pitching against Carlos May and Lee Maye of the Chicago White Sox. They are not to be confused with Milwaukee's Dave May, who at the moment is wondering what kind of pitches Kansas City Catcher Jerry May is going to call down on him. Nor with that other May in Pittsburgh, Catcher Milt, who is thinking over the pitching pattern he will use to try to stop Cincinnati's May, Lee. By morning even the May, Maye and Mayses of baseball are going to get mixed up poring over the box scores. And it is no help that Willie Mays of the Giants had the night off. He is the only Mays everybody knows.

It is not just the number of Mayses in the big leagues—eight presently—that is so bewildering. Relationships get muddled, too. Carlos of Chicago and Lee of the Reds are brothers. Lee Maye, who is Carlos' teammate, is kin to neither. All the Mays get mistaken for each other so often, they sometimes wonder themselves which May they are. "Quite a few fans call me Willie May," says Rudy. "But then a lot call me Carlos. Most often I guess I'm just plain Lee to people. Some have even called me Jerry and man, he's white and I'm black. One of the most common mistakes is with those baseball cards. People send them to be personally autographed and the envelope is correctly addressed to me. The only trouble is, I open it and there is a picture of Lee, Carlos or Willie."

Until Willie arrived on the scene in 1951 with the Giants, only five May(e)s had made it to the majors, and one, Paddy Mayes, played just five games as an outfielder with the 1911 Phillies. The others were Pitchers Carl Mays (1915-29), whose fastball killed Cleveland's Ray Chapman in 1920, and well-traveled Jakie May (1917-32). Al Mays was a pitcher in the American Association (1885-90) and Pinky May, who now manages Cleveland's Reno farm club, played third for the Phillies from 1939 through 1943. His son is Milt, the 21-year-old Pirate rookie. "When I came up at the end of last season," Milt says, "everybody thought I was Jerry and Jerry was me. But Jerry was traded to Kansas City. My mail has been cut in half."

If Jerry May thought leaving Pittsburgh would end the confusion, he was mistaken. The Kansas City Chiefs had a celebrated defensive end named Jerry Mays, and although he has retired, he is not forgotten. Earlier this season, for instance, Kansas City newspapers had Jerry Mays catching for the Royals, and Jerry May gets a lot of letters asking him about blitzing and 4-3-4 defenses.

Cincinnati's Lee is reaching the stage where others will be mistaken for him. He has hit 37 homers, trailing only Willie Stargell and Henry Aaron in both leagues, and has driven in 88 runs. Known as the Big Bopper, he is four inches taller than his 5'11" brother. Each weighs about 200 pounds. Carlos came to the White Sox in 1968 with a reputation as a power hitter. A mortar misfire at Marine camp the next summer cost him that reputation—and most of his right thumb. This season, although he is hitting well, he has just five homers. He put one more over the fence but somehow managed to miss touching home plate on opening day in Oakland. He was credited with a triple. At the very least that play guaranteed him that Carlos May would never be taken for Willie Mays.

The career of Dave May turned upward when he was traded to Milwaukee last year. With his new club Dave hit 14 homers and is batting around .285. "They always called me a good batting practice hitter in Baltimore," he recalls. To show he learned well, he got six hits in a doubleheader against the Orioles.

As Willie Mays and Lee Maye, 36, near retirement—or do they?—another May is appearing in the wings. He is Bob May, a righthander who was Pittsburgh's first choice in the June 1969 draft. If he develops quickly, Pittsburgh may soon field the first battery of May and May, pitching, of course, to Lee May. So far, no umpire named May has appeared, which is just as well.