Thursday, September 2, 2010
#12 - Dave May
Dave May was signed by the Giants after being a football, basketball, and baseball star at his Delaware high school. He had a bunch of brothers who played baseball as well and Dave was scouted and signed after being viewed in summer league games in which he played with some of his siblings. That was in '61 and Dave got things rolling the next year with a big season in D ball, hitting .379 with a .457 OBA. In HS Dave was a third baseman but he moved to the outfield upon turning pro and the Giants were always overstocked with those. So maybe that is why despite his initial season, Dave was left unprotected and snapped up by the Orioles in the first year draft. He then hung in A ball the next three seasons for Baltimore, interesting again since he always hit at that level, putting up a combined .334 average with a .435 OBA while averaging eight triples, 14 homers, 72 RBI's and 32 stolen bases. In '66 he finally got to Triple A where his numbers were discounted a bit. But he fixed that in '67 when he hit .317 at that level and then made his Baltimore debut.
Like the Giants earlier in the decade the Orioles in the second half of the Sixties had a stocked outfield and in '67 the starters included a former MVP in Frank Robinson; former Rookie of the Year in Curt Blefary; and and all-world center fielder who could hit in Paul Blair, as well as a host of backup guys. So playing time was going to be tough to come by for May when he arrived. In '67 he got some time at the outfield corners. Like just about all players who came through the Baltimore system, Dave was an excellent fielder whose natural position was center. In '68 he made the cut in spring training and got a bunch of starts in right and center to start the year, but with an average that was at .140 by early June, he was returned to Triple A. There he hit .315 for a month, was recalled, and hit .260 the rest of the way. '69 was a bit similar - but without the Triple A time - as Dave needed a late season revival to pull up his average from Mendoza levels and was used mostly as a reserve guy in right, though he did get a little post-season time. After not playing too much to kick off the '70 season, he went to Milwaukee in June for pitchers Dick Baney and Buzz Stephen.
The trade would be a big benefit for May. While he would miss any more post-season action, he immediately became Milwaukee's starting center fielder after the trade and would do some nice work in that position. He would have a decent offensive run in the second half and then step things up a bit in '71 when his stats included his MLB best 15 stolen bases. In '72 his dad passed away which seemed to hit Dave hard, at least as reflected by his offensive production. But he then had the big bounce in '73. Then '74 was a lot like '72. Dave was sick in spring training and it sort of stuck around the first half of the season. Plus he was moved to right field, which didn't make him crazy happy. His numbers tumbled pretty hard to a .226/10/42 line and that November he and a minor leaguer were sent to the Braves for Hank Aaron.
Picking up his recent pattern, May had a good year in his new home in Atlanta. As part of an outfield platoon system, Dave got the lefty role in all three spots and in just over 200 at bats, put up a nice bounce in his .276/12/40 line with his MLB-best OBA of .361. The next year was an even one so Dave slumped again, his line falling to .215/3/26 on pretty much the same number of at bats. Prior to the '77 season he was part of a big trade in which he, Ken Henderson, Adrian Devine, Carl Morton, Roger Moret and cash all went to Texas for outfielder Jeff Burroughs.True to form, Dave's numbers picked up a bunch as did his playing time and in 340 at bats his line rose to .241/7/42. Once again, though, an even year was a downer, this time in a big way as Dave hurt his shoulder in spring training and by the time it got better he'd been flipped back to the Brewers. There he got some token pinch and DH at bats but hit only .195 before getting sold to Pittsburgh in September. For the Pirates Dave again got nearly no plate time and was released following the season. He signed with the Phillies, got cut in '79 spring training, and then hooked up with the short-lived Inter-American League where he hit .265 before it folded. That was his final season in pro ball and Dave finished with MLB numbers of .251 with 96 homers and 422 RBI's. In the post-season he got a walk in three plate appearances.
May returned to Delaware full-time after playing to raise his kids and play some semi-pro ball for a furniture store sponsor while also working at the store. On his team were ex-Brewers (and Phillies) Johnny Briggs and Chris Short so the team was pretty good and Dave apparently hit a bit over .300 the five years he spent with it. In '83 he was a coach in the Atlanta system, but part of his job was cutting people which he didn't like so he quit after that year and returned to the furniture business. He also sold electronics and worked as a cook and for five years as a county recreational director. In 2003 he had a leg amputated because of diabetes and it appears that since then he has been in a wheelchair. His sons, Derrick and David, played college ball and Derrick put in a bunch of MLB time, principally with the Cubs.
Besides the '73 stats, the first thing that jumps out at me is the middle name. he had to be the only LaFrance to play in the majors. The cartoon is pretty blah; May would be a lot bigger than that if he was sitting on top of a backboard. I do think he is one of only a couple players to be born in Delaware. When Brooks Robinson won MVP in the '70 Series, he was using Dave's glove. That would be a great star bullet. Dave has a SABR bio also.
On to the degrees of separation:
1. May and Toby Harrah, '77 Rangers;
2. Harrah and Jim Bibby '73 to '75 Rangers.
That was easy!