|*Hall of Fame Photo*
Philadelphia Athletics 1908-14
New York Yankees 1916-19, 1921-22
In today's game baseballs fly out of parks with outstanding
regularity. Since 1998 the once barely approachable 60 home run plateau has been passed six separate times, and of course
the 70 home run barrier has been reached twice. When we think of the origins of the home run, Babe Ruth immediately comes
to mind, but another man, Frank 'Home Run' Baker was baseball's first home run king - here is his story.
Baker was born on March 13, 1886 in Trappe, MD. He made his major league debut in 1908 with the Philadelphia Athletics
under the legendary Connie Mack. In 1909, his first full season in the majors, Baker hit .305 with 85 RBIs, 20 stolen bases,
led the league with 19 triples, and hit 4 home runs - which was sixth in the league during the dead ball era.
Baker at third, Stuffy McInnis at first, Eddie Collins at second, and Jack Berry at short, the Philadelphia Athletics had
one of the greatest infields of all time. It became known as the "$100,000 infield."
In 1911 Baker began to establish
himself as the premier power hitter of the era, leading the league with 11 home runs and helping the Athletics win the pennant.
It was in the Fall Classic versus John McGraw's New York Giants that he earned his famous nickname. Wielding his enormous
52 ounce bat, Baker hit the winning home run in Game 2 off Hall of Famer Rube Marquard. Not to be outdone, Baker followed
it up by hitting the tying home run in the ninth inning of Game 3 off of another Hall of Famer, Christy Matthewson. The Athletics
went on to win that game in the 11th and defeated the Giants in six games, Baker hit .375 and began to establish himself as
a premier post season player.
Baker kept up the momentum during the 1912 season winning his second straight home run
title with 10 while hitting .347 and leading the league with 130 RBIs.
In 1913 Baker won his third straight home run
title with 12 and second straight RBI title with 117. The Athletics once again won the pennant and faced the Giants in the
World Series. Baker hit .450 and helped the Athletics win in 5 games.
In 1914 Baker won his fourth straight home run title with
nine, and the Athletics reached the World Series only to be swept at the hands of the Boston Braves. Following the season
Connie Mack sold off all of his star players except Baker, breaking up the great team. A frustrated Baker sat out the 1915
season in a contract dispute, playing with a semipro team in Upland, PA.
Before the 1916 season Mack sold his disgruntled
star to the New York Yankees for $35,000. Baker's stellar play continued in New York as he finished in the top five in home
runs each year from 1916-1919.
Baker sat out the 1920 season to care for his ailing wife and their two daughters.
He returned in 1921 and helped the Yankees win their first World Series, playing in a part time role. An effective utility
man, Baker hit .294 with nine home runs and 71 RBIs in only 94 games. He returned in 1922 in the same role as the Yankees
again won the World Series.
Frank 'Home Run' Baker retired following the 1922 season. He was a .307 career hitter
with 96 home runs, 987 RBIs, 1838 hits, and 235 steals. Baker hit .363 with three home runs and 18 RBIs in six World Series
(25 games). From 1909-1919 no player hit more home runs than Baker and only Ty Cobb had more RBIs. Baker was elected into
the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955 by the Veterans Committee and died on June 28, 1963 in his hometown of Trappe, MD.
his power numbers are unimpressive by today's standards, Frank Baker is a true legend of the 'dead ball' era - he is the forefather
of today's power hitters and a true clutch player.
-David Zingler, January 2002
Simply Baseball Notebook
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