Simply Baseball Notebook: Cover Stories

Harold Baines Speaks

Fall 2001

Harold Baines Talks About His Career

photo by S. Vannavong

Harold Baines has been one of baseball's most consistent hitters for most of the past two decades. He has quietly put up nearly 3,000 hits while many of his peers have gathered the headlines. He has just finished the 2001 season with the White Sox, his third stint in the windy city. His illustrious career has also included two stops in Baltimore, stints in Texas and Oakland, and a short stay in Cleveland. I had a chance to talk to him about his career - past, present, and future.

The 2001 season was not a good one for the soft spoken Baines. He missed two and a half months after tearing a hip flexor in June. After his return, playing time was sparse which did not allow him to find his groove. He hit .131 in only 84 at bats. For most players this would be quite frustrating and discouraging, but the levelheaded Baines has kept it in perspective, "it's not really frustrating, he said, "injuries are part of the game. It's (the season) been nice to be back in Chicago - the city and the fans."

The soft spoken Baines has kept his sense of humility and has not forgotten his roots. He was born, raised, and still resides in St. Michael's, MD, a small town in the Baltimore area. Thanks to his many accomplishments, he has become a hometown hero - every January 9 is Harold Baines Day in the St. Michael's, "It's (St. Michael's) is a small town with a small town atmosphere," he said. "I try to say active in the community - it's very important to me."

Baines' activity in the community has a strong emphasis on education. He has set up the Harold Baines Scholarship Fund to assist deserving college students with tuition and other expenses. He also hosts a charity golf tournament anually to help underprivileged youths in the Baltimore area get a chance at bettering their lives through education.

Harold Baines' 22 year career has been full of ups and downs. He has been an All Star six times, appeared in the post season five times, and his number 3 has already been retired by the White Sox. His fondest memory, however, is his big league debut in April of 1980, "It was in Baltimore which was special," he said. "I grew up there, and my family was there to see it." His most disappointing moment? "Getting traded to Texas (in 1989) ..... the infamous Sammy Sosa trade."

Baines finished the 2001 season with 2,866 hits, so naturally 3,000 is one of his goals, "It's going to be hard just pinch hitting," he said, "but I'll keeping working at it." His dream scenario for hit number 3,000? "To get a ring with it. I've been playing 22 years and don't have a ring - that is the most important thing (to me)."

Baines' pro career began in 1977 when the White Sox made him the #1 overall draft pick. Legend has it that Bill Veeck, the Sox' owner at the time, had first seen Baines as a little leaguer six years earlier and had been following his career ever since. Did Veeck ever speak to the young Baines? "If he did, I don't remember," Baines replied. "I was only 12 years old and just learning to play the game. I know that he did live in the area though."

Over his career Baines has had the chance to make many friends. He lists Harold Reynolds and Tony Bernazard among others as his best friends/teammates in baseball, but says it is the friends he has made outside the game that are most important to him. Of the hundreds of pitchers that he's faced over the years, Baines lists Bret Saberhagen (in his prime) as the hurler that has given him the most difficulty.

Currently Harold Baines' future in baseball is in limbo. He has already been informed by White Sox management that he will not be asked to return for the 2002 season. He does want to play next year, but at this point has no idea where. He will be 43 on opening day next season and is coming off the worst season of his career. It is clear that he is not the same player that he was ten years ago, but Baines does still have a lot to offer a club. He is a true professional that could provide leadership and a positive example to young players. If he can stay healthy he would be a valuable DH and pinch hitter for a contending team. You have to believe that there is still some magic left in the bat of Harold Baines.

-David Zingler

Baines' page @ Baseball-Almanac.com


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