Top 100 Yankees of All-Time...#88, Frank Baker

Frank "Home Run" Baker divided his career between two teams. He played thirteen years in the big leagues, beginning in the first decade of the 20th century, when long balls were as rare as passenger pigeons. He was a member of a dynamic Philadelphia A's team for his seven seasons, before playing out the string as a Yankee, helping the New Yorkers to their first two World Series in 1921 and 1922. Thus he cops our Greatest Yankee #88 title. (Free Preview of Premium Content)

Actually Baker had earned his moniker long before donning Yankee pinstripes. In the 1911 World Series when his A's knocked off the New York Giants, Baker slugged two crucial homeruns: one tied a game, and the other was a game-winner. His blasts also victimized two future Hall of Famers , Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson. After having slugged the deciding blow against Marquard on October 16, 1911, Baker took Matty deep the next day, tying the game, and thus forever went down in the annals of baseball as Frank "Homerun" Baker.

He also was the game's first great slugger in the Pre-Ruthian era. He won four consecutive homerun titles before the Babe came on the scene. And although he later would take a backseat to Ruth in the power categories, he continued to perform consistently.

That is not to say that his career was spared controversy. He was a member of Connie Mack's famous $100,000 infield along with Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins and Jack Barry. Frank never played a position other than third base during his career.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

H

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

1916

Yankees

.269

360

97

10

52

46

15

36

30

.344

.428

1917

Yankees

.282

553

156

6

71

57

18

48

27

.345

.365

1918

Yankees

.306

504

154

6

62

65

8

38

13

.357

.409

1919

Yankees

.293

567

166

10

83

70

13

44

18

.346

.388

1921

Yankees

.294

330

97

9

71

46

8

26

12

.353

.436

1922

Yankees

.278

234

65

7

36

30

1

15

14

.327

.444



Following the 1914 season, and having led the American League in homeruns for four straight years (1911-14), Connie Mack attempted to "lowball" him salary-wise, but the proud Baker took a stand, and refused to take the field for the 1915 season. There was obviously no love loss between Baker and the A's patriarch. Thus it came to be that Mack sold Baker to the Yankees for $35,000 for the 1916 season.

Baker clearly brought Hall of Fame numbers over to the Yankees. Along with his four homerun titles from 1911-14, he posted batting averages of .334, .347, .337 and .319 during those seasons. Thus, he was definitely on the road to Cooperstown.

In 1916, after having exiled himself from the game for a year, he was somewhat rusty. The self-imposed layoff resulted in the lowest batting average of his career (.269). He also hit 10 homeruns and drove home 52 in his first year as a Yankee.

He rebounded in 1917 and proceeded to have three consecutive dynamic seasons in pinstripes. He batted .282, .306 and .293 during those years. His ten circuit clouts in 1918 were second only to his future teammate, George Herman Ruth, who established a new AL standard with his unheard total of 29 for the Red Sox.

But fate would intervene once again in Baker's career. His first wife, Ottalee, became deathly ill, and Frank sat out the 1920 season to be with her in her dying days. When he returned for the 1921 season, he was 35 and his career was clearly in decline. However, the Babe was now onboard, and Baker played well enough to help the Yanks to their first AL flag. He batted .294 in 94 games.

Baker saw limited action as the Yanks met the New York Giants in the first one-city World Series since 1906. The Yanks lost to the Giants in eight games, and Baker had two hits in eight at-bats.

His final season was 1922, and he still was an effective player at 36. He batted .278 for 179 at-bats. He batted only once in the 1922 World Series, failing to get a hit, but finished his career with a fantastic .363 postseason average. This time the Yanks lost to the Giants in five games.

Upon retirement he managed a minor league team from Easton in his native state of Maryland. Unfortunately, he was not as successful as a manager as he had been as a player, and his Easton team had back-to-back last place finishes. However, he "discovered" a young slugger by the name of Jimmie Foxx and urged Connie Mack to sign "Fawksie" to an A's contract.

Baker was subsequently named to the Hall of Fame in 1955, and retired to the Maryland town of his birth, Trappe, where he also died in 1963, at the age of 77.

One of the pivotal players of the Dead Ball era, who later emerged as a Yankee star, despite some bad luck with Mack and in his personal life, Baker helped to pave the road for those to come in the world of baseball. His 96 career homeruns don't seem like many by today's standards, but he has been justly evaluated for the time in which he played. His final batting average was a robust .307, which is outstanding in any era. For his contribution to the first two Yankee pennant-winning teams, and for his career as a whole, Baker well deserves our Greatest Yankee #88 honor.

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