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Joe Willis Bauman (April 16, 1922 – September 20, 2005) was an American first baseman in professional baseball who played primarily in the low minor leagues, including the American Association, the Eastern League, and the Southwestern League. He is best remembered for his time with the Roswell Rockets, for whom in 138 games in 1954, he hit 72 home runs, a record that stood throughout pro ball until it was topped in 2001.
Bauman debuted in pro ball with Newport in the Northeast Arkansas League. Hitting only three home runs in 59 games, he also went 0-10 as a pitcher when he was called up to Little Rock in the Southern Association. During the winter, when World War II began, Bauman played semi-pro ball in 1942, and was in the service from 1943 to 1945.
Upon his return, Bauman settled in with Amarillo in the West Texas-New Mexico League. He led the circuit with 48 home runs, 159 run batted in, and a .301 batting average. The following season, his home run totals went down, but his production went up. He hit just 38 homers, but he hit .350 and drew 151 walks, and was signed by the Boston Braves.
In 1948, Bauman played in the Braves organization, going 0 for 1 in Class AAA, and posting fair stats in Class AA (.275, 55 BB, 10 HR in 276 AB), while splitting time with Ray Sanders. It was Bauman's only time outside of the low minors, and left it inconclusive as to whether he could play in the majors or not.
The Elks did well, especially in 1949 and 1950, and Bauman was a crowd favorite, known simply as "Joe." Fans from western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle flocked to watch him knock home runs over the unique red rock wall of Ackley Park. By 1951, the oil-boom economy and the team had begun to lag, though, and Bauman decided to move on.
At 30, Bauman joined up with the Class C Longhorn League for 1952, signing with Artesia. In that year, his triple crown stats were .375-50-157, good enough to lead the league in homers, RBI, and walks (148). The next year, he led the league in walks (130), runs scored (135), and home runs (53), while maintaining a high average. After the season, he moved to Roswell.
In 1954, Bauman broke out (if one can "break out" from a 53-home run season), winning the triple crown and also leading the league in runs and walks for Roswell. His totals were eye-popping. In 138 games, he had 199 hits in 498 at bats for a .400 average. He hit 35 doubles, 3 triples, and 72 home runs - the latter, a professional baseball record that stood for years until Barry Bonds topped it in 2001. He also drove in 228 runs, and walked 150 times.
Roswell was a small town, and Bauman was the biggest local attraction since the 1947 crash and suspected alien landing. After each home run, fans would push dollar bills through the fence, and the game would have to be stopped for a few minutes to collect all the money.
Bauman could not duplicate his 1954 season in 1955, hitting only 46 home runs with a batting average of .336. The following season, he played just 52 games and hit 17 homers. He retired in 1956 at age 34. The career ledger for Joe Bauman reads: 1,019 games, 982 runs scored, 1,166 hits, 337 home runs, 1,057 runs batted in, 974 walks, and a .337 batting average. He was a true legend on a small stage.
Bauman was born in Welch, Oklahoma.
After his baseball career, Bauman continued to run the service station which he had started operating during the last years of his playing career.
Bauman died on September 20, 2005.
- In the following article, go to end of text, and click on page "5". Ballard, Chris; Good, Owen (October 17, 2011). "The Invisible Fastball: Six decades ago a minor league pitcher accomplished something we'll never see again". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2011-10-19.
- Korte, Tim (September 20, 2005). "Minor league home run king Bauman dies". USA Today. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
- "Joe Bauman Sets Record, Runs Home Run Total to 72". The Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. September 7, 1954. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
- "Joe Bauman Award". Baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved 2011-09-16. See also: Minor league baseball#Awards.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Salin, Tony (1999). Baseball's Forgotten Heroes: One fan's search for the game's most interesting overlooked players. Indianapolis: Masters Press. ISBN 0-8092-2603-0. OCLC 39786989.[page needed]
- SABR biography
- SABR journal
- Olbermann, Keith (August 31, 1998). "One For The X-files: In a season of inalienable glory, Roswell's Joe Bauman hit 72 homers". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 19, 2011.