By Kyle Lovern
(Editor’s Note: This is a rewrite of a story originally written in the early 1990s by Sports Editor Kyle Lovern)
Just after the turn of the century when Blaine and Mary Dixie (Hatfield) May were starting a family in the Pond Creek section of Pike County, Kentucky, they probably had no idea they would eventually rear enough sons to field their own baseball team.
But during the late 1930s and early 1940s, the May Brothers traveled throughout eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, ready to play anyone who would challenge them.
The last remaining son was the late Blaine May, Jr., father of the late Ron May, a well-known banker and football coach in the area.
Ron said his father had many fond memories of those bygone days. The May family looked forward to those hot, humid summer weekends. The clan worked five days a week in the coal mines, however when Saturday and Sunday came along, it was time for the great American pastime of baseball.
Having nine brothers on the baseball diamond became a novelty and fans flocked from all over the region to watch them play.
The May brother’s team ventured into many Appalachian communities to take on other Coalfield League squads. Places like Kermit, Dingess, Logan and Omar in the Mountain State, and Jenkins, Pikeville, Freeburn and Paintsville in the Bluegrass State.
Times were hard during that era. Like many other teams, the mining companies helped subsidize the teams. The May brothers were sponsored by the local UMWA and Octavia Mining Company at McAndrews, Kentucky, who helped furnish uniforms and equipment.
The team consisted of Burgess “Doc,” the pitcher; his battery mate, Roland, the catcher; Mose was the first baseman; Sherman played second base; Bob was the shortstop; Buford was at the hot corner, third base; Dar manned left field; Wardy roamed in center field; and Blaine was in right field.
The May boys had a built-in cheering section, since their mom and dad would always travel with them to the games.
Mrs. May provided some incentive.
If the May brothers won, she would fix them a fine chicken dinner. If they lost, they each had to give her $5 dollars.
However, relatives say they didn’t lose that often.
The family played for the love and fun of the game. Ron May said that his father related it was always enjoyable having the entire family together.
The independent squad didn’t play in a league. They liked to travel around and take on the different teams in the region.
Like many other baseball fans during that time period, the family recalls watching the most famous player who performed in this area, the future Hall of Famer, Stan Musial. Musial played for the Williamson Redbirds of the old Mountain State League. The Williamson team was a farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Another future major league player the May family saw and played against was Arnold “Lefty” Carter of Nolan, West Virginia.
The legend of the May brothers’ baseball team is still talked about by many of those who recall those days of the Coalfield League.
It was a unique story during an exceptional time in the history of the United States.
During the pre-war years of WWII, baseball was the summer’s biggest attraction in the small hamlets of Appalachia.
And the May brothers provided much of the entertainment and pleasure for those diehard fans.
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at email@example.com or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)