Jumat, 08 Juli 2011

Another Look: Milt May made Series history in 1971

Bob Barrickman
Beaver County Times
July 6, 2011

Milt May wasn't a starter in 1971, but he found his way into baseball's record books during the World Series that season.

The former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher had an RBI pinch-hit single in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the 1971 Fall Classic played at Three Rivers Stadium, driving in the winning run of the first night game in Series history. The Pirates edged the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 to even the Series at two games apiece before winning the championship in seven games.

It didn't appear that May would be the hero of Game 4 after the Orioles scored three runs off Pirate starter Luke Walker in the first inning.

"With our hitting, we knew if we could hold them, we had a chance," May said. "Bruce (Kison) held them and it gave us a chance to chip away.

Kison, a 21-year old rookie, relieved Walker in the first and shut out the Orioles over six-plus innings to get the win. The Pirates scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning and tied the game with a run in the third. May untied it in the seventh.

"I dunked one in there and it worked out good for us," said May.

May was on hand two weeks ago when Pittsburgh honored the 1971 world champions before a game against the Orioles at PNC Park. Coincidentally, May, 60, now works for the Orioles as the organization's hitting coach for Sarasota (Rookie) and extended spring training. May, a Florida native, has resided in Bradenton since 1969, his first spring with the Bucs.

There weren't too many opportunities early in May's career as Manny Sanguillen was the established regular.

"Manny was an unusual commodity as a catcher because he ran very well," said May. "He could hit a ball neck-high or ankle-high."

May's at bats increased to 283 in 1973 as Sanguillen played some in right field. But May was dealt to the Astros after that season for pitcher Jerry Reuss.

May spent 15 years in the majors, including a second stint with the Pirates from 1983-84 before retiring. He also played for the Tigers, White Sox and Giants. After his playing career, May was the Pirates' hitting coach under manager Jim Leyland from 1987-96. The Pirates won N.L. East titles during that stretch from 1990-92.

"I don't think we had as dominant a team as Pittsburgh had in the early '70s," May said. "We didn't have anyone with the stature of a (Roberto) Clemente or a (Willie) Stargell."

That dominance gave May a skewed view of life in the majors. That '71 season was May's first full year in the big leagues.

"My first full year, what a thrill," May said. "I said, 'Is it going to be like this every year?' It took me (26 years) to get back in 1997."

That season, May was the hitting coach with the Marlins when Leyland took over as their manager. Just like in '71, May's team won the Series in seven games as the Marlins beat the Indians.

"It makes it more gratifying, because you know how tough it is to get there."

Forty years later, people still bring up May's game winning single on Oct. 13, 1971, which was the 11th anniversary of Bill Mazeroski's homer to the World Series in 1960.

"It doesn't bother me," May said. "It brings back good memories."

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