Home Run Baker

Position: Third baseman
Philadelphia Athletics, 1908-1914; New York Yankees, 1916-1919, 1921-1922

John Franklin Baker (1886-1963) was born on a farm in Trappe, Maryland, the only home he ever knew. After flunking a brief trial with the Baltimore Orioles of the Eastern League in 1907, Frank in '08 joined Reading of the Tri-State League on the recommendation of Buck Herzog, a fellow Marylander who saw promise in the young third sacker.

Hall of Famer Frank
Though his 96 career home runs
seem paltry by today's standards,
Frank "Home Run" Baker earned his
nickname with timely dingers.

Herzog was virtually alone, though, in his estimation of Baker's talents. It came as a surprise to most observers when Connie Mack purchased Baker for the Philadelphia Athletics on August 28, 1908.

By the conclusion of the 1909 season, Mack's judgment was more than vindicated. In his rookie season Baker hit .305 and 19 triples, still an American League yearling record.

Two years later Baker received his nickname of "Home Run" when he topped the AL in four-baggers and clubbed two more homers in the World Series that fall against the New York Giants. The first came off Rube Marquard, who was chastised the next day in a newspaper column by Christy Mathewson for pitching "carelessly" to Baker. By that evening Mathewson himself had been victimized by the new slugging star, surrendering a game-tying home run in the ninth inning.

Baker comprised part of what for three years, starting in 1912, was known as the "$100,000 Infield." The other three members were first baseman Stuffy McInnis, second baseman Eddie Collins, and shortstop Jack Barry. The 1912 season was Baker's best; he led the AL in both homers and RBI and hit .347, then a record for junior circuit third basemen.

Baker's tenure with the A's remained pleasurable and productive until the finish of the 1914 season. After the A's were swept embarrassingly in the World Series by the "Miracle" Braves, Mack opted to break up his team by either trading high-salaried stars or refusing to pay them what they were worth.

Baker was in the latter category. He sat out the entire 1915 campaign when Mack stubbornly refused to give him a raise. The following year, the Yankees purchased Baker from the A's for $35,000. A year away from the game apparently affected Baker. In 1916, he had his poorest season, hitting just .269, and was never again an important offensive force in the majors.

When his first wife died in 1920, Baker again chose to retire temporarily. He returned to the Yankees the following spring, just in time to play on the club's first pennant winner. He retired, this time for good, in 1922. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955.

Here are Home Run Baker's major league totals:

.307 1,575 5,985 887 1,838 313 103 96 1,103 235

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