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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Posnanski: The Home Run Summer of ‘54

He would always say a doctor called him in 1952. Bauman would not even remember the guy’s name, but he said this doctor then showed up at his filling station and offered him a contract to play for a team called the Artesia Drillers in New Mexico. Bauman had never heard of them or Artesia or, really, New Mexico. But the doctor offered steady money — $600 a month — and he said people in the stands would give him some more. Bauman agreed on the condition that for $250 he could buy back his contract. The good doctor agreed.

It’s fair to say that they never saw anything quite like Joe Bauman in New Mexico. Artesia was named as such because in 1903 an artesian well was discovered there. That simple. People took pride in the baseball team. And Joe Bauman was the biggest thing in Artesia. He was 30 years old when he showed up, and he had honed his uppercut home run stroke, and those 19 and 20 and 21-year-old pitchers in the Longhorn didn’t stand a chance. That first year, Bauman hit .375 with a league-record 50 homers in 139 games. The second year, Bauman hit .371 with an even better league-record 53 home runs in 132 games. He led the all of organized baseball in homers both years. He earned enough money from what players called “fence money” to buy a car.

After the 1953 season was over, Bauman decided to buy out his contract and move 40 miles due north to Roswell. In Roswell, there was the lingering buzz of an alien landing, a Texaco station available at a good price and a right-field wooden fence, painted white, just 324 feet from home plate.

Good cripple hitter Posted: April 03, 2014 at 04:44 PM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, joe posnanski, minor league baseball

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   1. Steve Treder Posted: April 03, 2014 at 05:37 PM (#4678782)
those 19 and 20 and 21-year-old pitchers in the Longhorn didn’t stand a chance.

This may be a quibble, but it isn't true that all the pitchers in the Longhorn league were that young. Many were, but there were plenty older than that, and more than a few older than Bauman. The low minors in those days weren't strictly developmental the way they are now.
   2. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:06 AM (#4679006)
Man, Posnanski is such a good writer.
   3. boteman Posted: April 05, 2014 at 12:10 AM (#4679772)
He led the all of organized baseball in homers both years.

Yeppers. No other professional writer could come up with that!

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