Before Babe Ruth, Frank "Home Run" Baker was the premiere slugger of the American League, and baseball for that matter. He slugged 96 home runs in 1,575 games and had a .307 batting average.
Baker was born on March 13, 1886 on his family's farm in Trappe, Maryland. Baker was given the nickname "Home Run" in the 1911 World Series.
But he didn't begin his career swimmingly. In 1908, he became a member of the Connie Mack led Philadelphia A's. He was part of a team that included Jack Coombs, Eddie Collins, Chief Bender and Eddie Plank.
As a rookie, Baker hit .290 with two runs knocked in. Not especially flattering numbers, I realize.
In 1909, he became the team's starter and didn't make Mack regret his decision. Baker had four home runs, 85 RBI, a .305 batting average, 19 triples and 20 stolen bases. The A's finished second in the American League, at 95-58.
In 1911, he gained his prestigious nickname, "Home Run". He won his first of four career batting titles. That year, he had eleven home runs, 115 RBI, a .334 batting clip and 198 hits. The A's beat the New York Giants, four games to two in the World Series. In that World Series, Baker hit .375 (9-for-24) with two homers and five RBI. Both his homers were key. He hit a game winner off Rube Marquard in Game Two and a game tying home run in Christy Matthewson.
This is a good nickname.
His next year was his best year. He hit .347 and led the league in home runs with ten and runs knocked in with 130. He also had 200 hits and 21 triples.
In 1913, he continued his dominance of pitchers, hitting .337 and leading the American League in homers (12) and RBI (137).
That year, the A's again beat the Giants in the World Series and Baker batted .450.
In 1914, he tied with Sam Crawford of the Detroit Tigers for the home run lead, with a grand total of nine. Baker refused to play in 1915 because he wanted a raise and didn't get one.
He played from 1916 to 1922 with the New York Yankees. He was teammate of Babe Ruth, who he saw dominate his home run total. Ruth hit more home runs in two seasons then Baker hit in a thirteen season career.
For the Yanks, Baker was an asset, but not essential to their success.
In his seasons, he had home run totals of 10, six, six, 10, nine and seven. He had RBI totals of 52, 71, 62, 83, 71 and 36. He retired a Yankee in 1922 at the age of 36. Baker managed in the Eastern League in 1924 and 1925. There, he discovered Jimmie "Double X" Foxx. He delivered Foxx to Mack's A's in 1924.
After managing those two seasons, he returned home to his farm in Trappe, Maryland. He lived the quiet life for 38 years until dying in 1963 at the age of 77. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame eight years before death in 1955.
In his World Series career, he always came up big. He hit .363 (33-for-91) with three home runs and eighteen RBI.
In a thirteen season career, Baker was successful. He had 96 home runs, 987 RBI and a .307 batting mark.
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