1983 Topps Lee May Super Veteran a Super Career-Capper

The 1983 Topps Lee May Super Veteran card was a jolting experience for young collectors.

I mean, if you were a kid in this hobby that summer, then you probably remember the surreal experience of opening a pack of new baseball cards and finding pictures from a generation before.

There you were, thumbing through stacks of Atlee Hammakers and Steve Rogers All-Star cards and Angels team leaders and some guy named Tony Gwynn when — bam! — you were slapped in the face by a movie-star black-and-white headshot of Fergie Jenkins.

Or a sort of pasty looking young man who claimed to be Mike Schmidt, but who had nothing on his upper lip.

Or an old photo of Kent Tekulve looking exactly like … well, Kent Tekulve. And Donald Sutherland, natch.

Or a young Joe Morgan from 1963 wearing an unrecognizable uniform.

Or, for heaven’s sake, a sepia shot of Jim Kaat from … 1959?!?!? You know, the same year Alaska and Hawaii became states, at least according to my ancient, dilapidated history book.

So, yeah, the whole experience was fascinating, and at least a bit disjointing.

For a young Reds fan (won’t mention any names), that Lee May card (#378) may have been the most intriguing of all.

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Here was a guy I’d never really heard of before, and yet he garnered a spot of honor reserved for players with a decade in the bigs (though Topps may have given Tekulve some wriggle room) and some star power.

I could see from the card back that this man May had done plenty of big things over his career:

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And I could see from the date on his old-time, left-hand photo on the card front that he had, indeed, been in the game a long, long time — since 1965, in fact.

That was 18 years earlier, in case your math brain hasn’t had its coffee yet.

Now, as an adult, 18 years is a long time, but it’s not insurmountable. And I can remember many different, sometimes overlapping 18-year periods in my life …

Growing up and graduating from high school …

My son growing up and graduating from high school …

The 18 years my grandmother lived as a widow …

Last-period Spanish class on a sunny spring day.

Heck, I have shirts older than 18 … probably even food. Definitely slabs of hard pink bubble gum.

But when you’re a kid, 18 years is forever, longer than you’ve been alive, in fact. And it’s hard to imagine the stuff that happened before you were even born — sometimes hard to accept that anything really did happen before you were born.

That was the beauty of those Super Veteran cards, though — they put that history right there in your hands, helped you realize that some really great players had done some really great things — a long time ago, by your estimation, but not so long ago that they weren’t still there taking their cuts.

Except … Lee May wasn’t there taking his cuts.

Not in Cincinnati, where he played seven seasons and became an All-Star.

Not in Houston, where he landed in the deal that brought Morgan to Cincy and probably birthed the Big Red Machine.

Not in Baltimore, where he played first and designatedly hit for six seasons, helping manager Earl Weaver cash in on his dreams of the three-run bomb.

And not in Kansas City, where he signed as a free agent after the 1980 season, and where he took his final cuts as a big leaguer.

When the Royals released him after the 1982 season, May retired rather than look for a new gig — but he eventually found one anyway, when K.C. hired him onto their coaching staff for 1984.

In between, when some of us whippersnappers were still learning our baseball history May showed us what a snippet of the game’s glorious past looked like, right there on maybe the best career-capper card of them all.


Hobby Wow!

By most standards, the absolute best years of May’s career came with the Reds, and this eBay lot presents a tangible hunk of nostalgia from that era:

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That’s a game-used Lee May bat from his final years with Cincinnati, from 1970 through 1972.

Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).

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