Chili Dog MVP Book Excerpts

Chapter 10: May 21, 1972: From the Outhouse to the Penthouse

Carlos May became a steady ballplayer. Photo credit Leo Bauby Collection.
Carlos May became a steady ballplayer even after an accident in the Marine Corps Reserves threatened his career. Photo credit Leo Bauby Collection.

Outside of Allen, Carlos May had the best year among offensive players with the Sox in ’72. He’d end up with 12 homers, 68 RBI, a .308 batting average, a .405 on-base percentage and an 843 OPS. His WAR, just above 4, was the fourth-best on the team, behind Dick, Wood and third starter Tom Bradley. May finished 21st in MVP voting and made the All-Star team, enjoying a breakout season.

Not surprisingly, May considered 1972 to be the highlight of his nine-year career in the majors, which was spent mostly on the South Side. May, a younger veteran who was first brought up by the Sox in 1968, said the teams prior to 1972 were friendly, but not close. That changed, partly due to Dick, but mostly on account of Tanner.

“That ’72 team was a great team,” May recalled while talking on the phone from his home in suburban Chicago. “Great bunch of guys. I hung out more that year than the other three or four years I was there prior to Dick coming in. Guys, they wouldn’t hang out when I first got to the Sox. That’s because management wouldn’t let players drink in the hotel bar — that was reserved for coaches and managers. The players would have to go out and find a bar. But when Chuck came, he said we could drink in the hotel, so after the ball games a bunch of guys would be in the bar drinking. Dick was there. It was a great year.”

Sam Hairston lands May

May was born in 1948 in Birmingham, Ala., where he was a high school baseball star along with his older brother Lee, who also would have a fine major league career with the Reds, Astros, Orioles and Royals. In 1966, Carlos May was one of the most sought-after amateur baseball players in the country. And at that time, the Chicago White Sox still had one of the most effective networks of scouts in the majors — a group that had been assembled starting in the 1950s with the Go-Go Sox front office of Frank Lane and Chuck Comiskey. By 1966, there were eight full-time Black scouts in the majors — and the Sox had two of them, Sam Hairston and Chicagoan Charles Gault.

White Sox wives all donned hot pants and team jerseys for a special promotion at Comiskey Park in 1972.
Objectification sensitivity about women had to wait for another century. White Sox wives all donned hot pants and team jerseys for a special promotion at Comiskey Park in 1972. Photo credit Leo Bauby Collection.

He retired in 1960, after which the Sox hired him as a full-time scout in Alabama. Competing in the region for talent with another Negro League star-turned-scout, the Cubs’ legendary Buck O’Neil, Hairston suggested a number of future major league talents whom the Sox passed on, including Lee Maye, who signed with the Braves and Lee May (Carlos’ brother), who signed with the Reds. The organization finally agreed to draft Carlos after he was scouted by Hairston. “You missed his older brother, you better not miss this one,” Hairston said about the younger May, who was the 18th pick in the First Round of the 1966 Major League Amateur Draft, which had been instituted just one year earlier.

May rose through the Sox system quickly, exhibiting great patience at the plate (striking out only 24 times while drawing 45 walks in the Midwest League in 1967) and, eventually, power (13 homers in Single-A Lynchburg). His first appearance on the South Side came in late 1968, under legendary Sox manager Al Lopez, who agreed to come back to the team after Eddie Stanky’s firing. After a torrid spring training in 1969, May stayed on the White Sox roster for good, earning the starting left fielder’s position while batting second behind future Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio. But Lopez rarely talked to May. Instead, then-coach Don Gutteridge told him he had made the team in ’69. Wearing No. 17 for the Sox, Carlos May would be the only baseball player in history to wear his birthday on the back of his uniform — he was born on May 17.