Joe Bauman, held home-run record for 47 years
September 25, 2005
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Joe Bauman, whose 72 minor-league home runs in 1954 stood as a professional baseball record until Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001, died Tuesday. He was 83. Bauman died in Roswell, N.M., where he played for the Roswell Rockets of the Longhorn League during the 1950s.
He succumbed to pneumonia, a complication from an Aug. 11,2005 fall during a ceremony to rename the old Fair Park as Joe Bauman Stadium.
He broke his pelvis in the fall and remained hospitalized until his death.
He played in the Class C Longhorn League, one rung above the lowest minor-league level of the time. "I'm proud of it, even if it's just minor-league trivia," Bauman said in a 1995 interview.
It was a single-season record that lasted 47 years, but Bauman's feat wasn't widely heralded because it happened in the minors.
"He was such a modest person. He didn't toot his own horn," said Jim Waldrip, a former teammate and close friend.
Bauman was watching on television at his home when Bonds hit No. 73 in 2001. "I never thought it'd last this long, to be honest," he said at the time. "It didn't bother me or anything. I just thought, 'There goes my record.'"
Bauman, a lefthanded first baseman, was 32 when he hit .400 over 138 games in 1954.
Bauman was a hulking man at 6-5, 225 pounds when he hit 337 homers in nine minor-league seasons.
He hit 46 homers for Roswell in 1955 and retired during the 1956 season. Like many minor-league stars of his time, Bauman never reached the majors.
The Boston Braves, who once owned his contract, tried to send him to Atlanta of the Southern Association but wanted to cut his salary. After four years in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Bauman was tired of taking orders and walked away.
"I told them that I could make more money selling 24-inch shoestrings on any corner in Oklahoma City," he said.
Born in Welch, Okla., on April 16, 1922, Bauman grew up in Oklahoma City. He spent eight seasons shuttling among several minor-league stops.
In 1948 while with the Boston Braves organization, Bauman reached Milwaukee of the American Association - one step from the majors.
Next spring, instead of pursuing a job in the majors, Bauman decided to play semipro baseball in Elk City, Okla., where he ran a service station along Route 66.
Three years later in 1952, Bauman returned to the minors, this time playing for Artesia, N.M., of the Longhorn League.
After two seasons, Bauman moved 40 miles north to Roswell after agreeing to $1,000 per month with a $1,000 signing bonus.
He settled in Roswell, running a service station and later working for a beer distributor until his retirement in 1984.