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What We Think About When We Think About Dad

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What We Think About When We Think About Dad

Derrick and David May Jr.'s picture
Derrick and David May Jr.
Derrick May played 10 seasons in the Major Leagues most notably for the Chicago Cubs & Houston Astros. Derrick is currently a hitting coordinator in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. David May, Jr. is currently a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays.

What We Think About When We Think About Dad

DERRICK MAY: Father’s Day is on Sunday and the holiday of course makes us think about our dad, Dave May, whom we lost on October 20,2012. There were so many great things about Dad that not everyone knows, how he made our childhood magical, funny, exciting, happy. You know, it’s the vivid moments that stay with you from the early years. He was in many ways a hero to us and when we think about him, we feel like kids again. My brother David and I would like to share a few thoughts and moments from our life that made Dad very special to us.

DAVID MAY. JR: Most baseball fans know that Dad enjoyed such a tremendous season for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1973. If you look at the All-Star ballot that year, you’ll see he wasn’t listed among the eligible outfielders. He still ended up collecting a lot of write-in votes, but not enough to be selected as a starter. Oakland A’s manager Dick Williams ended up naming him to the roster.

DERRICK MAY: We were too young to go with him, so we stayed home.

DAVID MAY, JR: Actually, we had plans to spend the break with friends in Belleville, Wisconsin, a town outside of Madison, but since Dad had to go Kansas City for the All-Star Game, we drove over there without him. Our friends threw a great All-Star party for us and we all gathered around the TV to see Dad line up with guys like Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson. Jim Colborn was there, too-

DERRICK MAY- Colborn was one of the players that used to talk to us a lot when we were in the clubhouse-

DAVID MAY, JR.: Yep, they were the two Brewers representatives at that All-Star Game, and when Dad was announced in the pre-game ceremonies, the whole house cheered. Thought it was so cool to see Dad at that game.

DERRICK MAY: I have a funny story related to this. So about a month later, it’s late July, maybe August, Dad’s not home, Mom was in another room and we wanted to go outside and throw the ball around.

DAVID MAY, JR.: We couldn't find a ball-

DERRICK MAY: -But we did have this shiny new baseball in the bedroom. So, great, we grab the ball and go outside to play catch-

DAVID MAY, JR.: We’re goofing around in the back yard, high flyballs, hard grounders-

DERRICK MAY: - Just doing stuff that kids do. Anyway, we come back in the house for dinner. Dad comes home and brings us up to bed a couple hours later. After kissing us good night, he sees the ball on the floor in our room, picks it up, checks it out and is like, “Why are there grass stains on the All-Star Ball?”

DAVID MAY, JR.: It was a ball signed by all the players on the American League All-Star roster-

DERRICK MAY: (laughs) We didn’t know that it wasn’t a ball we could play outside with-

DAVID MAY, JR.: -No idea, were five and six years old at the time, but Dad was really cool about it, just sighed and laughed to himself. Dad was always bringing stuff like this home. Our friends used to ask us all the time, "If we knew all these famous people, how come we never asked for autographs?" Some kids actually didn't believe that Dave May was our father. When you are raised in that environment, you really aren't in awe. You see the players success and failures up close. They are human to you. No one is perfect. It's a lesson we learned early in life. I think you find that with a lot of players' sons.

DERRICK MAY: (laughs) The All-Star ball story is one of my favorites. Won’t be the last story like that, either, I’ll tell you that much-

DAVID MAY, JR.: (laughs) Right?

DERRICK MAY: But yeah, we had some really good times in Milwaukee during those years. We lived on 19th street for most of our time that Dad played for the Brewers. David and I used to ride our bikes down to the White Hen Pantry grocery store around the corner from our house, buy some Bazooka and Topps Baseball cards. It always seemed like we would get home just in time for Dad to get us in the car and ride to the ballpark. The last couple seasons in Milwaukee, I think we went to just about every home game, Was so great to spend so much time with him, listening to the Isley Brothers or the Ohio Players in the car on the way to County Stadium. Whenever I hear those groups, I think of Dad.

DAVID MAY, JR.: Oh, Dad Loved music-

DERRICK MAY: The Brothers Johnson “Strawberry Letter 23,” Al Green, Aretha Franklin.

DAVID MAY, JR.: -And one of the great credits to Dad was that he was very open-minded about the music he liked. He’d listen to the Isley Brothers, then throw on a David Bowie 8-track-

DERRICK MAY: And then The Beatles or Paul McCartney-

DAVID MAY, JR.: -He even started listening a to country music. He picked this up when he played for the Braves in Atlanta. Somewhere along the way, he met Charlie Pride, and they became good friends. In his later years, Dad really started following country music in a big way. A few years ago before he passed, I was in Nashville for work. I called Dad to check in and say hi, he goes, “Do you know where the Grand Ole Opry is,” and I said, “No, Dad, I really don’t,” and then he’d go, “Lemme look and see how far – oh, you’re 10 miles from the Opry! You should go check it out! That’s where they have the Country Music Awards.” (laughs) Dad made a point to watch the Country Music Awards on CBS every year.

DERRICK MAY: That’s what we got from him, that exposure and willingness to enjoy different kinds of music. It all began with those rides to the ballpark.

DAVID MAY, JR.: The Brewers had an interesting setup for the players’ parking. Like today, where Major League players usually drive in through the gates with the tinted windows in their cars, it was much different back then. The players actually parked further away from the stadium, behind the fans’ lot. Everyone knew this, too. We would drive up and there would be at least a dozen fans waiting for us in the lot. Some days more, some days less, but Dad was always signing stuff – he signed everything that was given to him. Best part about it - he always signed with a smile.

DERRICK MAY: When we went to park, everyone knew us. Didn’t think about why at the time. That’s just the way it was.

DAVID MAY, JR.: We would hang out in the clubhouse with the players and some of the other kids for awhile-

DERRICK MAY: -There was always an endless supply of bubble gum and sunflower seeds. Then Mom would come later, grab us to go sit in the family seats. We'd always make sure to fill our pockets with bubble gum before we left.

DAVID MAY, JR.:Great bunch of guys in that clubhouse. Don Money, Mike Hegan, George Scott, really nice men-

DERRICK MAY: Jimmy Colborn as we said before, they all played around with us and never made us feel like we were an intrusion.

DAVID MAY, JR.: Johnny Briggs-

DERRICK MAY: Yeah, Johnny was Dad’s best friend, very close with Dad until the end of his life.

DAVID MAY, JR.: We had such a good time at the County Stadium. We had our run of the place-

DERRICK MAY, JR.: We knew every usher, every concession person. It felt like a big family.

DAVID MAY, JR.: Now, I don’t remember any special moments from that season, not this home run or that home run, it just always seemed like Dad came up with the big hit.

DERRICK MAY: Not that we would’ve known any better. The crowd would suddenly go crazy, people would tap us on the shoulder and be like, "Your Dad just hit a Home Run," and we would cheer too, then just go back to what we were doing.

DAVID MAY, JR.: Which was usually spending half the game stomping empty beer cups. That was our thing.

DERRICK MAY: One specific memory at County Stadium was being there for Robin Yount’s first game in 1974. I remember Mom telling me this was a big deal that Robin was just 18 years old. The PA speaker announced that it was Robin’s first game. I don’t remember if they did this for every rookie player, but they did it for Robin.

DAVID MAY, JR.: I remember after the ’73 season, Dad brought home a bat for us signed by the whole team-

DERRICK MAY: (laughs) Here we go-

DAVID MAY, JR.: (laughs) -So one day, probably the following spring, Derrick and me want to go out and hit the ball around. Of course, we take the bat. Grounders, pop flies, Baltimore chops, you name it. Mom calls us in for dinner. We run in, drop the bat right inside the front door. Later that night, as we’re brushing our teeth for bed, (laughs) we hear Dad from the other room, “Is this that Brewers bat I got the boys?”

DAVID MAY, JR.:Dad never got mad, even when Derrick and me were messing around. He didn't sweat the small stuff. It was just his way. An open-mindedness, an optimism, a positive outlook. I think that’s why he had so many friends in his life.

DERRICK MAY: When we first moved to Wisconsin in the early '70s, we lived in this high-rise apartment complex where a number of the pro athletes playing for the Milwaukee-based teams would live. We would always run into our neighbor Lew who lived right above us. He was a little younger than Dad.

(DAVID laughs)

DERRICK MAY: And whenever Lew saw my Dad, he always had a smile on his face.

DAVID MAY, JR.: It was almost like Dad brought the best not just out of himself, but every one of the lives he touched. Lew was always happy to see Dad.

DERRICK MAY: Interesting side note. One day, we found out that Lew had changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

DAVID MAY,JR.: Dad loved basketball and Kareem loved baseball. The two of them connected on that level and became friends exchanging tickets and introductions of teammates. It was a little more than that, though.

DERRICK MAY: Dad was a jovial guy.

DAVID MAY, JR.: A broader picture is that Dad recognized when you are on the road so often, your family - especially the kids - need you around in the offseason. He coached our YBA basketball league team until he left for Spring training. Partly the reason I ended up coaching youth programs for several years was because of Dad. It was great bonding. Another lesson learned.

DERRICK MAY: It was sad when he was traded to the Braves in the deal that brought Hank Aaron back to Milwaukee, but he was embraced by some of the players there almost immediately.

DAVID MAY, JR.: Cito Gaston and Dusty Baker became very close family friends. They welcomed Dad to Atlanta. Dusty was very good to Derrick and me. He actually lived next door to us. There were a few nights where The Bakers would baby sit us. When he became a Dodger and we met Dad in L.A. for a series, Dusty would take us into the Dodger Clubhouse, introduce us to Garvey, Reggie Smith, Davey Lopes. Dusty was just great with kids - Cito, too. Really makes sense that both of them were so successful as managers in the big leagues.

DERRICK MAY: Obviously, being a professional athlete, there's a lot of travel involved, Dad's not always home, but the cool thing was we would get to go on exciting trips sometimes.

DAVID MAY, JR.: Here's a really cool trip. We went to winter ball in Venezuela with Dad once.

DERRICK MAY: David went, I went, my Mom & sister, Dad took the whole family with him -

DAVID MAY, JR.: Toward the end of his career, Dad tended to be more of a fourth or fifth outfielder, but he gained this reputation for being one of the greatest batting practice hitters in the game. I mean, from what his friends and ex-teammates have told me and what we remember, whenever he wanted to turn it on, Dad turned it on. One of those times was during the All-Star Game in Venezuela. Dave Parker was down there, too. This was during the 1976/1977 offseason. Parker was on the verge of becoming the superstar we all know. So, of the ten players in the contest, it comes down to Cobra and Dad. They go back and forth and Dad finds himself down by seven dingers. He gets into the batters’ box, sets and just goes off on it. He must’ve hit like 15 home runs in a row. Wins the Home Run Derby. It was really here where I understood what guys were saying about his batting practice prowess.

DERRICK MAY: Dad ended up playing with Parker on the Pirates during his final season in 1978. He was so good at making friends with people, and it wasn’t so much that Dad made a lot of friends in his life, or sought the company of athletes, people gravitated to his warmth and good nature.

DAVID MAY, JR.: Oscar Robertson, Connie Hawkins, Charlie Pride, Jim Zorn, he made so many friends through his life-

DERRICK MAY: If anything, what I think about when I think about Dad is that he brought the good out in people and he brightened their day by just knowing him, whether it was a two minute fan greeting, bumping into Kareem taking out the garbage in the morning, or running into fans at the White Hen Pantry, he just made people smile.

DAVID MAY, JR.: Let me add this. In Dad’s final season, when the Rangers sent him back to Milwaukee in ’78, it was a different ballclub than before the Aaron trade. A competitive ballclub. Don Money was still there. Paul Molitor was a rookie, Yount was becoming a stronger player, Gorman Thomas was an established Major League Home Run hitter. The clubhouse, as tight as it had been, was now even a closer-knit group. These guys hung out with each other, and when Dad came back, even though he was more of a bench player, the players treated him as if he never left. The fans, too.

DERRICK MAY: The best I could say about Dad was that we always felt very supported and extremely loved. He was there for us all throughout our life. When David became part of the first group of scouts for the Arizona Diamondbacks expansion team in 1997, Dad was there to offer advice and when I was selected in the first round of the draft by the Chicago Cubs in 1986, Dad helped me negotiate my first contract. All you could ask for in a father.

DAVID MAY, JR.: Let me finish up a quick, cute story. So, getting back to Jim Zorn, one winter, Milwaukee was hit with a pretty bad snowstorm. After a couple days, the temperature rose and we were finally able to go out of the house. Derrick and I wanted to go out in the sun and play football in the snow. I think our Nerf was missing, we couldn’t find the other ball, some reason or another. Anyway, there’s a ball in my room. Let’s grab that one, we say. We go outside, diving catches into the snow like Lynn Swann, punting contests, spiking the ball on the pavement after a touchdown. Dad drives up. Gets out of the car, waves and smiles at us as he walks in the house. Not two minutes later, Dad re-opens the front door.

“Is that the football I gave you,” he yells over.

It was an official NFL game ball signed by all the original Seattle Seahawks.

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David May, Jr. and Derrick May recall their loving father.

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