Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
By Janice Dunnahoo
Special to the Daily Record
Last week I shared the story of Tom Brookshier and his family. Tom was a hometown hero and acquired much fame, but other members of his family were famous in their own rights. There is one more friend and associate of Tom Brookshier, who also acquired much fame. His name, familiar to many, was Joe Bauman.
To tell his story I will use excerpts from several Roswell Daily Record articles, plus my own memorabilia of him and stories my dad told about him, as he knew him and attended many of his games.
Roswell Daily Record
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Jan. 29, 1956
Big Joe Bauman Inks 1956 Roswell Rocket Contract
Pampa Completely Releases Slugger; Good Year Forecast
Roswell’s Joe Bauman, home run king of organized baseball with 72 roundtrippers in 1954, has signed his 1956 contract and will play with the Rockets this season.
“Bauman has been unconditionally released by Pampa, Rocket President Earl Perry said.
“The slugging first baseman had earlier been involved in a contract squabble when 1955 Roswell manager Stubby Greer sold his contract to the West Texas club.
“Perry affirm that the popular Roswell first baseman was signed as a free agent.
“Bauman had indicated at the close of last season that it would be his last, mainly due to the press of local business here.
“’In our salary negotiations before his signing took place, Joe decided he would play one more year,’ Perry said. ‘He agreed on this to help get the Class B Southwestern League underway. But he stated he would retire after the 1956 season.’
“Last season Bauman appeared in 131 games for the Rockets and cleared the fence with 45 home runs to lead the old Longhorn League. The Longhorn and old West Texas-New Mexico loops have been realigned into the new Class B Southwestern League.
“Perry said Bauman makes Roswell his home and the big fence-buster feels obligated to do all he can make the advent of Class B baseball a success.
“The Rockets president said Bauman will be in good shape when he comes back from spring training at McAllen, Texas.
“’I expect him to have a good last year before he retires,’ Perry said.
“He also predicted Roswell will have three of the top 10 hitters in the league with Bauman, Bobby Fernandez — earlier brought from Lubbock, and Tom Jordan, player manager for the Rockets, this season.
“When asked about salaries, Perry replied, ‘Good ball players like that don’t come cheap.’
“He pointed out that Bauman averages about 180 runs batted in a season, Jordon 175, and Fernandez 145. On this basis the club can expect 450 runs to be batted in by the ‘Big Three’ of the Roswell lineup, he said.
Fernandez has hit at a near .315 pace the last two seasons in the old Class B WT–NM and blasted around 25 homers each year.
“Manager Jordan led the old Longhorn in batting in 1955 with a lofty .407”. He also paced the loop in total bases with 378, and runs batted in with 159.
“Although hampered by illness last season, Bauman batted in 132 runs, hit 22 doubles and three triples for an average of .336.
“Big Joe appeared in every game in 1954 for Roswell, the year he belted the 72 homers. He batted in 124 runs, rapped 35 doubles, and three triples plus leading the league with the .400 average.”
I remember going to those games with my dad when I was very little. In those days, when someone hits a home run, the fans would gather around the backstop and stick dollar bills through the fence to the batter. It was said on a good night Bauman could make more than he could earn in a week.
Among our family memorabilia is a program from “The Hat Store Dinner” held for him at the Roswell Country Club. There is no date on it. Following are a couple of quotes from the program:
Bauman reminiscing, was quoted as saying the following, “I was thrilled after hitting a home run to be able to come back to the dugout with a fistful of dollars.
I loved playing at Fair Park Stadium here that summer, in which I roomed with Tom Brookshier. He became a cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles. If he had not been such a talented football player, he would have been a tremendous pitcher. He had a strong arm and was just so competitive.”
Here is an excerpt about a game Bauman and Brookshier played together. The article in the San Angelo Standard-Times, San Angelo, Texas, is dated 26 April, 1955:
“…As it was, Dworaczyk replaced Ortosky behind the plate and Bauman, home run king of the Longhorn League last season, promptly proceeded to hit a pitch over the right field fence with Duane White on base to give Roswell a 4-2 lead.
This brought the Colts to the plate at the bottom of the eighth, the same inning in which they ruined the Rockets Saturday night with a game winning five-run rally. The 1,363 fans, remembering the previous night’s rally, started to set up a clamor to unnerve the Rocket’s rookie pitcher, Tom Brookshier. The staccato clapping and whooping quickly died to a whisper as the first two Colts, Curt Borrett and Charley Watts, both grounded out. …”
Finally an excerpt from a Roswell Daily Record article dated April 5, 1965:
Smacked 72 Homers
“A 6 foot 5 giant who worked as a gas station owner in the off-season, Bauman smacked more home runs in the defunct Longhorn League in 1954 than have been hit in professional baseball before or since.
“That season Bauman, who never played in the major leagues, hit 72 home runs. Not only did Joe break (Babe) Ruth’s record of 60 homers, but he also topped the previous minor league high of 69 that was originally set by Joe Hauser at Minneapolis and equaled by Bob Cruess of Amarillo. And big Joe socked his six dozen homers in a 138 game season.
“Players of opposing teams insisted there was nothing fluky about Bauman’s home run output. The ball might have gone a little further in that dry air in the Southwest, they admit, but not enough to make that much of a difference. The guy could really hit.
“There are those who insisted Bauman could have made the grade in the majors as a hitter, but Joe was perfectly happy to stay in the minors. He got as high as Class A in the Braves organization. In three years in Class C he smacked 171 homers for Artesia, Texas, and Roswell. That’s a record that probably will never be equaled.
“Just as there was a heavy drama surrounding Maris’ 61st homer in 1961 off Tracy Stallard of the Red Sox, Bauman put on a dramatic performance to lift his output to 72.
Hurt Several Ways
“The next year Joe could hit only 46 roundtrippers, then came the freak accident that forced him to retire. The move hurt Joe in more ways than one.
“For one thing there was a butcher in Roswell who gave a ham to every hometown player who hit a homer. Seventy two hams in a single season is a lot of meat no matter how thin or how thick you slice it.
“Then there was the fans happy custom of sticking dollar bills in the chicken wire behind home plate every time Bauman hit a homer. Big Joe would circle the bases and then harvest a crop of lettuce from the backstop while people cheered.
“Like a lot of other famous athletes, Joe Bauman was born 30 years too soon. Just imagine the salary he could command at today’s (1965) going prices. He could make enough to buy 72 hams and have enough left over for a few Cadillacs in assorted colors.”
Historian Janice Dunnahoo can be reached at email@example.com.