Friday, August 3, 2012

#411 - Frank Baker


Continuing a recent run, we have another last card in Frank Baker’s. Frank is posing at Yankee Stadium, his former home until he was acquired prior to the season for Tom Matchick, another former infield reserve guy.  Frank got to back up Mark Belanger after the trade and so as a defensive specialist wasn’t going to get too much work behind a Gold Glove guy. But he did OK in ‘73, particularly in the RBI department. He also got into the playoffs with the new guys. But this post will be an extremely short one as information on this guy is tough to find.

Frank Baker made Meridian, Mississippi his home pretty much his whole life. He played ball at Meridian High, the same school at which his brother Johnny played football. Johnny would go on to have an NFL career as a linebacker. Frank went to the University of Southern Mississippi – Brett Favre’s school – where he continued to play ball at a big football school. That must have been tough recognition-wise but he had to be hard-shelled in that area since he was playing a game in which he shared a name with a Hall-of-Famer. After his sophomore season Frank was drafted by the Giants but opted to stay in school. Following his junior year in ’67 he was drafted by the Yankees in the second round and this time took the bait. He played the rest of that summer in A ball as well as all of the next. In ’69 he jumped to Triple A Syracuse where he made all-league the next two seasons and posted a .358 OBA in ’70. Late that season he made his debut for NY.

In August of ’70 Ron Hansen, Gene Michael’s backup at shortstop, got hurt and Baker was called up to replace him. Frank started strongly, getting on base five times in his first ten appearances and won a game with his bat shortly after coming up. He remained in NY most of the ’71 season although his playing time diminished and his average dropped a bunch. In ’72 he returned to Syracuse for the whole season where he was again all-league before he was traded to Baltimore. After hitting .172 in twenty fewer games for the Orioles in ’74 he was done. Frank hit .191 in 146 games up top and .251 with a .350 OBA in the minors. In the ’73 and ’74 playoffs he was strictly a defensive replacement and got no at bats.

And that’s it. He returned to Meridian according to his mom’s 2011 obituary but what he has done since ’74 is pretty much a mystery, at least media-wise. He got a bit of local publicity in ’78 when he was inducted into Southerrn Miss’s hall of fame. He was in a good class as former all-everything punter Ray Guy and former ABA star Wendell Ladner were inducted that year as well.


Frank gets star bullet props for his glove work as well as his big hit in ’73. I have assumed by his nickname that he played winter ball in Mexico or somewhere else in that neck of the woods but that has been a dead end research-wise as well. When he first came up there was another Frank Baker playing in the AL, an outfielder for Cleveland, who spent time with the Indians in ’69 and ’71.

Here we have another two guys who never faced each other:

1. Baker and Merv Rettenmund ’73 Orioles;
2. Rettenmund and Pedro Borbon ’74 to ’75 Reds.

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