Baines, Harold 1959–
Harold Baines 1959–
Professional baseball player
Harold Baines is considered a a consummate professional baseball player, in an era where flamboyance and style has sold in major proportions. Throughout his 22-year Major League baseball career, Baines has played for five different teams in the American League: the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s, Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles. He had four different stints with the White Sox, four with the Orioles, two each with the A’s and the Rangers. Baines has been able to become a versatile hitter, who combined his power-hitting skills with an uncanny ability to hit for average. He has also been named an American League All-Star six times in his career, the last in 1999, as a Baltimore Oriole.
Harold Baines was born in Easton, Maryland, on March 15, 1959, but was raised in tiny Saint Michael’s, Maryl-and. Every January 9th has been declared “Harold Baines Day” in Saint Michael’s, in honor of the town’s most renowned sports figure. Baines is considered one of the finest baseball prospects to ever come out of the state of Maryland, which has also produced Al Kaline, a former sweet-swinging outfielder/first baseman who played 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers.
As a 12-year-old Little Leaguer, Baines attracted the attention of former White Sox owner, Bill Veeck. Six years later, in 1977, Baines grew to All-America status, which not only made him one of the top outfielders in the nation, but a possibility of being taken with the first overall pick of the player draft. In June of 1977, the White Sox finished Baines’ dream by making him the first overall pick and a few days afterward, Veeck and then-White Sox general manager Roland Hemond flew to Baines’ home to sign him to a contract. When the White Sox played the hometown Baltimore Orioles at old Memorial Stadium, Baines worked out with the big team; little did he know that he’d be playing with them three years later, in 1980.
After an impressive spring training in Sarasota, Florida, Baines had a productive rookie season with the White Sox, hitting .255, with 13 home runs and 49 runs batted in. Of the 141 games that he played in, 137 were spent as one of the White Sox’ three outfielders, where he had a .963 fielding percentage. In 1983 his fourth major-league season, Baines helped the White Sox to earn a berth in the American League championship series and gained the reputation as the White Sox’ best hitter. While Baines distinguished himself as
Born Harold Douglass Baines, March 15, 1959, in Easton, MD; married Maria Henry; children: Antoinette, Britni, Harold, Jr., and Courtney.
Career: Played with the Chicago White Sox, outfielder, designated hitter, 1980–89, 1996, 1997, 2000–01; Texas Rangers, 1989 1990; Oakland A’s, 1990, 1991–92; Baltimore Orioles, 1993–95, 1997, 1998–99, 2000; Cleveland Indians, 1999. Had 2, 783 hits, and 1, 583 RBI.
Awards: Six-time American League All-Star.
one of the top outfielders of the 1980s, his career was lengthened when he became added a new position: designated hitter.
Baines was able to prolong his career, after becoming the White Sox’s designated hitter. It started in 1987, when he started 117 of 132 games as the White Sox’ designated hitter; Baines responded by smacking 20 homers and 93 RBI. “I’m a guess hitter.… I’ll watch how the catcher works a hitter …” he explained to Sports Illustrated.
Two years later, Baines was a principal in one of the most historic trades in baseball history. Baines was sent to the Texas Rangers for Sammy Sosa on July 29, 1989 and current president George W. Bush, who was one of the Rangers’ managing partners at the time, signed off on the deal, upon the recommendation from manager Bobby Valentine and general manager Tom Grieve. Though Baines became one of the American League’s top designated hitters, Sosa’s career has since established himself as one of the best power hitters in baseball.
At the time, the trade made sense for the Rangers to make, considering that Baines finished with the season with a .309 batting average, second only to Boston Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs. At age 40, Baines was still an effective major-league hitter. In 1999 he managed 25 HRs and 103 RBI, as Baines spent the season playing for both the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians, which acquired him late in the season for its American League playoff run.
By 2000 Baines’ career had come full circle, as he was traded from the Orioles back to the White Sox, the same year that the club had retired his No. 3 jersey. He is the only active player in the majors to have received the honor. Baines was also named to the White Sox’ All-Century team, joining other greats such as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Minnie Minoso, Frank Thomas, Luke Appling and Carlton Fisk.
The 2001 season was not exactly one for the ages for Baines, who played in just 32 games for the White Sox. His batting average slumped to a hapless .131 and he went the entire season without hitting a home run, which was a first for Baines’ career. He also showed that he was susceptible to injury, having spent three months on the disabled list with a hip flexor injury.
Baines, who has 2, 866 hits in his major-league career, is the next closest player to the 3,000-hit mark. He would like to achieve the milestone. Only time will tell if he will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Proponents say that Baines’ career numbers are solid and worthy of consideration while opponents argue that Baines’ career was too one-dimensional to gain serious consideration and when he played the outfield, he was not a factor. Harold Baines’ 384 home runs ranks second to Kaline for players, who never hit 30 in one season. If he never played again, Baines finishes as the most productive designated hitter in baseball history, with 1, 678 hits, 235 home runs and 972 RBI. According to Sporting News, “Baines has had a career a lot of players would enjoy.”
The Ballplayers, Hank Aaron to Jim Lyttle: Baseball’s Ultimate Biographical Reference, vol. 1, Edited by Mike Shatzkin. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1990.
Total Baseball. The Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball, Edited by John Thorn, Pete Palmer, Michael Gershman and David Pietrusza. New York: Viking Penguin USA, 1997.
Sports Illustrated, August 27, 1984.
The Sporting News, September 28, 2001.
Major League Baseball Online, www.mlb.com
—Eric T. Pate
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