Famed sportswriter Joe Posnanski a few days ago wrote about Joe Bauman, who set a professional baseball record of 72 home runs in a season in 1954.
That record stood until Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001.
The hot, dry air of the region and smallish ballparks of the Longhorn League undoubtedly helped Bauman set the record.
But Bauman, at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, didn’t hit many cheap home runs, either. He reportedly blasted a 500-footer during his big season that landed in the middle of an adjacent rodeo — sparking a lot of jubilant hollering from the cowboys. And he had other seasons in which he hit 48, 50 and 53 home runs.
In addition to those 72 homers, Bauman’s 1954 season featured 35 doubles, three triples, 224 RBI, 188 runs scored, a .400 batting average and an eye-popping .916 slugging average (which is higher than any major-league mark) in just 138 games. Bauman never made it to the major leagues, but his record season brought him national fame anyway.
The whole story by Posnanski is worth reading. A few tidbits to let you know why this is relevant to Route 66:
- Bauman co-owned a Texaco gas station and tire shop on Route 66 for many years, and worked there during the off-season.
- Bauman was born in Welch, Okla., close to Mickey Mantle’s Route 66 hometown of Commerce, Okla. He grew up in Oklahoma City.
- His baseball career included stints in Amarillo and Elk City, Okla. And Albuquerque was part of the league in which Bauman played.
He finished his career — all in the minor leagues — with a .337 average, 337 home runs and an amazing .702 slugging average. Bauman died in Roswell, N.M., in 2005 at age 83.