This Park is Dedicated to Hall of Fame Inductee
John Franklin "Home Run" Baker (1886-1963)
Baseball's First Home Run Hero and "As fine a citizen as any town could have."
Of all the players in the history of baseball, it may sound unusual that the one who ended up named for the game's most identifiable feat, the home run, hit only twelve in his best season. During baseball's Deadball Era (1900-1919), before Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx - when the ball was less lively and ballparks generally had very large outfields - most home runs were of the inside-the-park variety. A ball hit over the fence was truly an extraordinary clout, and very few players were identified with the long ball.
Instead, the game was dominated by men like Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner, slap hitters who sprayed the ball around the park, stole bases, and mastered the hit-and-run. Only one player from this period entered baseball mythology for his slugging: Trappe's native son, Frank "Home Run" Baker. The writing was on the wall when, on April 24, 1909, the 23-year-old Philadelphia Athletics rookie slugged his only grand slam home run over the fence in Boston. Fans and players talked about it for weeks. On the 29th of the following month, he hit the first dinger in the A's brand new Shibe Park. Two years later, Baker earned his moniker by hitting two game-changing homers in the 1911 World Series. That was also the first of four consecutive year (1911-1914) in which he led the American League in home runs (11, 10, 12, and 9 respectively). Playing third base for the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Yankees, Home Run Baker hit a career total of 96 round-trippers, leading the way for the more Ruthian totals to come in the Roaring '20s and the transition to the game we know today.
A member of Connie Mack's famous "$100,000 infield," Frank Baker was a brilliant "hot corner" man and a solid, consistent hitter. He is regarded by many as the best thirdbaseman of the pre-World War I era. Baker's greatest baseball moments - among the greatest of any player's career - came on successive days in the 1911 World Series, when he led the A's to a six-game win by swatting out-of-the-park home runs off New York Giants super pitchers (and future Hall of Famers) Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson. In the days of the dead ball, this was unbelievable! A New York writer called him "Home Run Baker" and the name stuck for the rest of his life. In 1913, Baker solidified his claim to fame when he cleared the fence a dozen times and hit Shibe Park's right field fence 38 times. When he homered again in the 1913 World Series, his hero status was sealed. Former New York Yankees manager Hal Chase wared, "(Frank) Baker is a dangerous man at all times, I don't care what the pitch him."
After the 1922 season, Home Run Baker, who once said, "I dreamed of being a ballplayer even when I was ten years old working in the fields," voluntarily retired from pro ball and came home to run his farms, gun for ducks, and start a new life with his second wife, Margaret (his first wife, Ottilie, died in February 1920). Upon his return to Trappe, he became a widely respected community leader. Starting in 1923, he served several terms on the Trappe Town Board, a time-consuming job which paid only $25 a year. He was Board president in 1932-33 and filled the office of tax collector for a time. He also served as director of the State Bank of Trappe and the Trappe Volunteer Fire Company. After a visit to Trappe in 1940, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun newspaper wrote, "Home Run Baker ... is as fine a citizen as any town could have. You can see something in the way the eyes of the people here twinkle when they talk about him that indicates a deep respect as well as a wholesome admiration for this special citizen of their community."
Baker still enjoyed baseball via autograph seekers, Old Timers games, a stint as manager of the Easton team of the Eastern Shore League (where he discovered Jimmie Foxx of Sudlersville), and working with Little League youngsters. When he learned in 1955 that he had been elected to the Hall of Fame, Baker remarked, "It's better to get a rosebud while you're alive than a whole rose garden after you're gone."
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