By hitting home run No. 73, Barry Bonds did more than just set a standard for future sluggers. He broke ol' Joe Bauman's record.
Playing for the Roswell Rockets in the long-gone Class C Longhorn League in 1954, Bauman established a professional mark of 72 home runs.
''I never thought it'd last this long, to be honest,'' Bauman, 79, said Tuesday from his home in Roswell, N.M. ''I was watching on TV when Barry Bonds hit that last one. It didn't bother me or anything. I just thought, 'There goes my record.'''
Bonds broke Mark McGwire's major league record when he hit his 71st homer Friday. The San Francisco star homered again later that night, then connected for No. 73 Sunday, the final day of the regular season.
''I kind of always thought it would be a left-handed hitter who broke it,'' Bauman said. ''A guy like Ken Griffey. Lefties have a little extra advantage, I think.''
Instead, it was Bonds. A lefty hitter, the same as Bauman, a 6-foot-5 first baseman.
In a town fabled for a UFO sighting, Bauman's 72 flying objects created quite a stir. So did his other stats that season.
Bauman hit .400, had 224 RBIs -- amazingly, he did not lead the league in that category -- scored 188 runs and walked 150 times. All in only 138 games.
''It seemed like that ball looked like the size of a cantaloupe the whole summer,'' he recalled. ''That year, it all came together for me.''
Bauman had hit 50 and 53 home runs the previous two years in the Longhorn League, the next-to-lowest rung in six levels of minor leagues.
At 32, and having gotten only one at-bat as high as Triple-A, he was near the end of his career when he broke loose in 1954.
The fence in right field was a more-than-fair 330 feet. His biggest advantage was the high altitude, helping the ball carry.
Bauman hit 46 homers for Roswell in 1955 and retired during the 1956 season. Like a lot of ballplayers with big numbers in the minor leagues those days, he never got a shot in the big leagues.
The Boston Braves, who owned his contract at one point, tried to send him to Atlanta of the Southern Association and wanted to cut his salary. Having spent four years in the U.S. Navy during World War II and tired of taking orders, he walked away.
''I told them that I could make more money selling 24-inch shoestrings on any corner in Oklahoma City,'' he said.
In later years, he ran a gas station and a tire distributorship in Roswell.
Over the years, he kept following baseball and seeing sluggers take aim at his mark, from Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
Last week, he watched the Houston Astros pitch around Bonds after the Giants' star reached 69 home runs.
''I remember they did the same thing to me, down in Big Spring, Texas, before the final series of the season,'' he said. ''But I thought Barry Bonds would break it, eventually. It looked like it was inevitable.''
© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us