Norm Baker

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For other uses, see Norm Baker (baseball).

Norman Henry Baker (February 17, 1923 – April 23, 1989) was a Canadian basketball and lacrosse player, voted Canada's top basketball player of the first half of the 20th century in a Canadian Press poll in December 1950.

Born in Victoria, British Columbia, Baker began playing basketball at age 10 for the Nanaimo Mosquitoes. At age 16 he joined the Victoria Dominoes and became the youngest player to be part of a Canadian senior national basketball championship team when the Dominoes won the national title in 1939. He won two more national titles with the Dominoes in 1942 and 1946. While serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force, he was also a member of the 1943 national champion Pat Bay Gremlins, and scored a then-record 38 points in one game against the Windsor Patricks.

Coming off a national title with the Dominoes, Baker turned professional in 1946 with the Chicago Stags of the newly formed Basketball Association of America, forerunner of the National Basketball Association. He signed what he said was a $4,800 deal to play in Chicago after ignoring an invitation to join the Toronto Huskies. With the Stags, he wore jersey #16 and had to compete for a spot against all-star Max Zaslofsky under coach Harold Olsen. Baker appeared in just four games with the Stags.

Baker spent most of the 1946-47 season with the Vancouver Hornets of the Pacific Coast Professional Basketball League, finishing second in the league in scoring with 694 points in 37 games (18.8 points per game average). The Hornets finished with a record of 24-14 in the regular season and 6-6 in the playoffs.

In April 1947, Baker played for the Portland Indians in the ninth annual World Professional Basketball Tournament. In the first round, the Indians lost 62-48 to the Sheboygan Redskins and were eliminated. The tournament was sponsored by the Chicago Herald-American newspaper and featured teams from various professional leagues.

During the basketball off-season, Baker played lacrosse with the New Westminster Adanacs, winning the Mann Cup national championship in October 1947 with a three-game sweep of the Mimico Mountaineers.

Rejoining the Hornets for the 1947-48 PCPBL season, Baker led the league in scoring with a 22.6 points per game average. The team set a PCPBL record for most points in a game, scoring 97 against the Astoria Royal Chinooks on December 27, 1947. The Hornets' record dipped to 29-23 through the regular season.

Returning to lacrosse, Baker and the Adanacs again made it to the Mann Cup in 1948, but lost to the Hamilton Tigers three games to two in a series played at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

In 1950, Baker was the only non-American on a basketball team of college all-stars billed as “The Stars of the World” for a 13-nation tour of Europe and Africa playing against the Harlem Globetrotters. The Globetrotters won the 18-game series 11 games to seven, playing before a total of 181,364 fans. For two years, Baker played against the Globetrotters as a member of the travelling opponent teams the New York Celtics, Stars of America and Boston Whirlwinds.

Following his basketball career, Baker worked as a police officer, and coached basketball and lacrosse. He died at age 66 in Victoria. Baker has been inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame (1966), Canada's Sports Hall of Fame (1978), the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame (1979), and the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame (1993).

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