Posted on

May Field Dedication

May Field Dedication
May Field Dedication
A large group of people admire and pass through the May Field archway that leads to the South Harrison Park baseball diamonds. The field was dedicated as part of Spirit Days to the father and son combination who reached Major League Baseball. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

Dreams of becoming a professional baseball player are alive and well with each pop of the glove at the South Harrison Athletic Association’s summer games. Now, each child who makes his or her way to one of the four lighted baseball diamonds can see dreams certainly can come true.
On Saturday, the baseball complex held a ceremony as part of the annual Spirit Days festival to name the park ‘May Field’ after Laconia’s father-and-son combination came from the roots of Indiana to play Major League Baseball.
There are fewer than 200 father-son combinations who have stepped foot on a Major League Baseball field and competed at the highest level.
Milt May was on hand Saturday for the dedication to his family. Milt played 15 years in the majors and coached for another 15.
Milt is the son of Merrill (Pinky) May, who was born in Laconia and graduated from Laconia High School in 1928. Pinky played from 1939 to 1943 for the Philadelphia Phillies, including an All-Star game appearance in 1940.
‘It really is a big honor,’ Milt said. ‘Me living here for a while when I was young, and Dad, of course, lived here for most of his life. I recall hearing stories of how things were when he was young. When you’re able to see facilities like this, you come out here and say, ‘Wow, this is a great facility.’ But when you see hundreds of kids playing ball and you hear all the hooting and hollering, it is just a neat thing.’
The baseball complex was funded by the Harrison County Community Foundation. The Harrison County Parks Department board members expressed their gratitude to the Foundation during the ceremonies.
At the dedication, two landmarks were presented. The first was an archway that spans across the road at the peak of the hill leading to the fields. The archway was designed to mimic the old- style entryways to ball parks. The arch is inscribed with ‘May Field’ and includes baseball bats and stars.
Prior to the unveiling of the arch, Milt spoke to a gathering of spectators. He shared a few baseball stories. Drawing the most laughter was the recollection of playing in a minor league baseball game in which his father was the opposing manager. After slugging two home runs in his first at bats, Milt went up to the plate the third time looking for homer No. 3.
‘The next pitch was right at my ear, and I hit the dirt,’ he said, adding that the next pitch was the same thing.
‘While I was on the ground, I look over and my dad was on the top step with a little grin,’ May said, drawing laughter from the audience. ‘I knew immediately that pitcher was told to do it. I stopped that real quick because I told my mom and she laid into Dad. She didn’t (get on him) very often. It was because she didn’t want her boy hurt.’
Milt also spoke about Pinky’s managerial career. One of the most memorable moments was when the Cincinnati Reds sent draft pick Johnny Bench to the Carolina League to play for Pinky. Milt recalls his dad then saying that Bench was the greatest young player he’d ever seen.
The second marker was a billboard that recognizes the life and careers of Pinky and Milt. Sticking with an old-time theme, the board features the front and back of baseball cards of both players. On the left of the board is father Pinky and to the right is son Milt.
Milt said his father would have appreciated the location of the ball fields.
‘My dad showed me, just cornfields near here, where we used to play Sunday afternoons,’ Milt said. ‘Some of the local boys from here would play a group from New Middletown or Georgetown, and we would play well into the afternoons. For this to be here, from what those guys did 80 years ago, I just know he would really be honored and happy with this. It was just an honor to be a part of it and on his behalf, too.’
Putting in the hard work the previous six months was Teresa Sutton. When Sutton joined the Harrison County Parks Department Board, outgoing board member Bob Stults told her about the May family and how it would one day be appropriate to recognize the family.
From there, Sutton began to do research the best way one can with a former baseball player: find a baseball card.
‘I had done some research and bought some baseball cards off eBay,’ Sutton said. ‘I had all my papers from the Internet to show the board (to propose a dedication). They thought it was a great idea. We did some brainstorming and came up with a plan. They more or less left it up to me.’
Sutton then found Milt through the Internet. She found his wife Brenda’s real estate agency when Sutton came across a profile of Milt.
‘I found out he owned a business, Catcher’s Marina in Florida, so I called,’ Sutton said. ‘I told them who I was and what we were wanting to do to honor him and his dad. I can’t remember who I talked to, but he gave me his personal cell phone number and, when I contacted him, his first reaction was to do the dedication more for his father. He is very humble but recognized how much his dad gave to this community.’
From there, the wheels began to roll on the project. Milt assisted with the factual information about the history of the family and playing careers. The former major leaguer donated 125 miniature baseball bats from Louisville Slugger commemorating the event. When the Pittsburgh Pirates learned of the event, they sent along 200 baseball caps. Milt autographed all the items during Spirit Days. Another former team, the San Francisco Giants, forwarded an autographed Barry Zito baseball for the auction.
‘Teresa has put so much time and effort into making this thing happen,’ Milt said. ‘Her husband (Mark) is in Iraq, and the work she has put in to push this thing along is amazing. It was great to finally meet her in person. We’ve talked on the phone quite a bit the last six months. She has been coordinating the deal and, without her, this probably wouldn’t have happened.’
Pinky May was born in Laconia in 1911. After playing baseball at Indiana University, he signed with the New York Yankees in 1932. He was later selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Rule 5 draft in 1938. Soon after, he made his major league debut in 1939. He played until 1943 when he was drafted into the Navy during World War II. After his tour, he returned to the Phillies but was soon released.
Pinky, who moved his family to Florida in 1959, went on to have a 40-year managing career in the minor leagues. After retiring from the minor leagues, he moved back to Indiana, taking up residency in Corydon, where he died in 2000. In 2003, he was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper.
Milt was born in Gary and took residence in Laconia on the family farm soon after. He attended Laconia Elementary School until the fourth grade. The younger May was drafted by the Pirates out of high school and went on to a 15-year career with the Pirates, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants.
Milt also has his place in baseball history. In 1971, during his first World Series, he drove in the winning run of Game 4. In 1975, Milt hit a three-run homer, sending his teammate, Bob Watson, across home plate to score the one millionth run in MLB history.
This past weekend’s welcome back to Laconia was special for Milt.
‘I get back about every year to see cousins and a few aunts to visit and keep up. My mom and dad lived in Corydon for eight to 10 years before Dad died, so I get up here to mingle. There is a crew I regularly see when I come up, but there was a group that I don’t see very often. I bet I saw 50 people, and probably more than half I haven’t seen in many years,’ he said.
Milt, who also served as the grand marshal of the Spirit Days parade in Elizabeth Friday evening, currently lives in Bradenton, Fla., and has two children and six grandchildren.
‘I would have loved to bring them up, but they all have Little League going on,’ Milt said. ‘I’d really like to get my family up here to see this at one point, more in remembrance of Dad.’
Click for photo gallery
Notable well wishes to May family
‘Major League Baseball sends best wishes to the May family and Harrison County. MLB is proud of two outstanding alumni, Merrill (Pinky) May and Milt May.’
‘ Major League Baseball
‘Best wishes to Milt May on this special day. You have chosen wisely to honor the May family. May Field will always be a place of honor. Have a good day, my friend.’
‘ Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers manager
‘Milt and Brenda were my special guests at the Ryder Cup! They are close family friends, and we congratulate Milt on this special day.’
‘ Paul Azinger, 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup captain