Joe Bauman, whose 72 minor league home runs in 1954 stood as a professional baseball record until Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001, died yesterday. 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 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.
Bauman hit 72 home runs in 1954. He played in the Class C Longhorn League, one rung above the lowest minor league level of the time.
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. "He just hit a lot of home runs, and he was a better fielder than a lot of people thought."
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 left-handed first baseman, was 32 when he hit .400 over 138 games in 1954.
Bauman was a hulking man at 6 feet 5 and 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.
Bauman said he earned about $3,000 each summer, thanks to "fence money" -- where fans stuck bills through the fence after his home runs.
"One night he made $254 from a home run, which was twice what most ballplayers made in a month," Waldrip recalled. "And for every home run Joe hit, a packing plant in Roswell would give him a cured ham. That always kept some of the other players in food."
-- From News Services