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    Frank "Home Run" Baker July 12, 1912 Home Run Baseball It's difficult to imagine in the modern age, when ballplayers like McGwire, Sosa and Bonds have turned outfield bleachers into veritable hard-hat zones with their endless long balls, that a man could merit the nickname "Home Run" when he managed to hit fewer than one hundred in his entire thirteen-season career. It shows us just how much this game has changed from the Dead Ball era that saw the Hall of Fame third baseman as one of the most menacing batters in the sport's history. The arrival of Babe Ruth on the scene, just as the physical make-up of the horsehide spheres changed, and the balls "came to life," was lamented by players like Ty Cobb, who believed that the national fascination with the home run that Ruth inspired in baseball fans was an affront to the very nature of the game. But before the Babe and the lively ball began their historic partnership, there was Frank "Home Run" Baker, rising to the top of the home run charts every season from 1911 through 1914 with eleven, ten, twelve and nine respectively. To be historically correct, even though Baker was the Home Run Champ four straight seasons, it was actually game-winning home runs against Hall of Fame pitchers Marquard and Mathewson in the 1911 World Series that earned him his famous moniker. As a member of Connie Mack's famous $100,000 Infield, Baker was certainly expected to perform at a high level of expertise, and his efforts were largely responsible for four pennants and three World Series Championships during his days in Philadelphia. And there likely would have been more had not the competition of the newly founded Federal League raised ballplayer salaries, causing Mack to sell off his precious team, and Baker to sit out the 1915 season before being sold to the Yankees in 1916 for $35,000. There he remained until the end of his career, briefly sharing a dugout with the Babe after his arrival in 1920. And it was there that the torch was passed. Home Run Baker was the last of a dying Dead Ball breed, and the Babe was the future. And the long balls began to fall like raindrops from the sky. We are privileged and honored to offer two of the ninety-six home run baseballs that the great Frank "Home Run" Baker hit during his Hall of Fame career. They are consigned directly by the Baker family, and have never before been offered to the collecting public. We certainly do not need to convince the knowledgeable collector just how rare an opportunity this presents. These historic spheres represent two of the earliest home run baseballs ever to see public auction, if not the earliest, bar none. Given the rarity of any well-documented game used baseballs from this era, and the scarce occurrence of the fabled home run in pre-1920 games, there seems little chance that any others could exist that predate this pair. And, if so, how could they possibly compete with a "Home Run" from Baker himself?

    The scene was Shibe Park in Philadelphia. In the dugout, Connie Mack, dressed in a dark suit in the summer heat, looked on as his very expensive third baseman stepped to the plate in the bottom half of a double-header. "Earn your money, Baker," Mack mumbled to himself. Hall of Fame pitcher Ed Walsh was on the mound for the Chicago White Sox, just tearing through the Athletics order. With an ERA just over two, Walsh was one of the most unhittable hurlers there was. Baker dug in and cocked his bat. "Big Ed" squinted in under the visor of his cap to check the sign, and fired one in. Baker tensed and uncoiled like a striking snake. This is the ball that traveled from a Hall of Famer's pitching hand, to a Hall of Famer's bat, and then into the record books as one of ten home runs in a League-leading season for Frank "Home Run" Baker. Vintage ink, believed to be that of Baker's wife, spans the sweet spot: "Home Run off Ed Walsh, July 12th, 1912." Though coated with mottled brown patches of age and ancient ballpark dirt, the baseball offers an inscription that is an easily legible 8/10. The red and blue stitching has held solid, and remnants of the old "Reach" stamping are clearly visible, while the "Official American League" on the opposing sweet spot leaves behind only a barely discernible ghost. In every regard, the ball has the proper look and specifications to match its historic pedigree. A piece of monumental importance, and again, quite possibly the oldest documented home run baseball ever offered at public sale. The ball is accompanied by a notarized letter of Authenticity from the family of Frank Baker with an additional LOA from Dan Knoll & Dave Bushing/SCD Authentic.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2004
    10th-11th Friday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,632

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

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