Tuesday, February 15, 2005

 

February 15th, 1916

Frank Baker Sold to Yankees

That's Frank "Home Run" Baker who earned his nickname in the 1911 World Series with the Philadelphia A's, swatting two home runs in six games against the Giants. Baker led the league in homers that season with eleven, and would lead the league the next three years after that, despite never topping twelve home runs and totaling just thirty-one in three years. Baker had not played in the 1915 season, after Connie Mack broke up the AL Pennant winning A's, dismantling a team that had won ninety-nine games the year before into one that lost one hundred and nine. Mack tried to keep Baker but the third baseman refused to report and sat out the year.

Deciding that he would prefer to sell and get something for him than let Baker waste away, Mack sold Baker to the Yankees for $37,750. (That's roughly $650,000 in modern dollars, which shows you something about how costs in baseball have increased over the years.) It was a relative bargain to the Yankees, who improved to over .500 in Baker's first season and watched him finish in the top five in homers his first four seasons with the team. Baker's wife died during the 1919 off-season, leaving Baker the only person to care for the couple's two daughters. Baker decided to take the 1920 season off in order to do so. He returned to the Yankees in 1921, and helped the team win the pennant that year and the next, although they lost to the Giants in the World Series both times, with Baker retiring after the 1922 Series.

Baker was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955, a valid selection given his status as one of the premier power hitters of the deadball era. Whether his seasons off were a case of putting himself above his team is a matter of opinion--I tend to side with Baker in both cases--but that he assembled a Hall of Fame career despite it is a testament to his ability.




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