You may have never heard of Frank Jake “Jakie” May and his story. But if you’re from Wendell he is one of the town’s best known celebrities. There aren’t many people who can say they struck out Babe Ruth, not once but twice in the same World Series game.
May was born in 1895 in Youngsville and in 1907 at the age of 12 moved to Wendell. He began playing in town-sponsored ballgames in 1912.
In 1917, May got his big break and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. He even pitched a no hitter in an off-season contest. In 1922 he set a Pacific Coast summer league record with 35 wins and 9 losses on the mound.
Jake May from rural North Carolina soon picked up the nickname “Wee Carolinian’ by national sportswriters. The New York Yankees tried to buy his contract for $75,000 but the deal fell through at the last minute.
From 1924 to 1930, May pitched for St. Louis. In 1931 he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. In 1932 the Cubs made it to the World Series to face the Yankees.
Can you image residents in Wendell gathering around the radio for the 1932 World Series, where their hometown left-handed pitcher faced the New York Yankee’s Babe Ruth. He struck out Babe twice in the same game with his “Wee Carolinian” curve ball. The Yankees however did win the series. After the final game, May immediately retired from major league baseball and returned to Wendell with his World Series bonus paycheck of $593.16.
Back On The Farm
In Wendell, May farmed tobacco and in his spare time enjoyed hunting. He passed away in 1970 at the age of 74. His home on South Main Street still stands and the Town of Wendell named Jake May Drive as a tribute to their baseball star.
May will be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018 on May 3rd in Raleigh thanks to efforts from the Wendell Historical Society. They received support from the Wendell Town Board to support his nomination for the Hall of Fame.
In April 2017, the Town of Wendell celebrated Jake May’s 100th anniversary of entering professional baseball by renaming Opening Day at the Park to Jake May Opening Day. In recognition of Jake May’s 14 years in the highest levels of major league baseball, several years in the minors, and a lifetime as a model citizen of Wendell, the Town of Wendell further honored May by renaming the Large Field to Jake May Field. Surviving family members were on hand for the occasion.
May appeared in 410 games, mostly as a relief pitcher, and had a record of 72 wins and 95 losses. He finished his career with a 3.88 ERA and 765 strikeouts.