Are the minors really that insignificant?

When Barry Bonds hit his 72nd home run, my first thought was, “He just tied the all-time professional baseball record for home runs in a season.” The holder being Joe Bauman of the Roswell Rockets in 1954.

I’ve just attempted to search the internet for any mention of this at all, and found no mention of it. I, for one, am shocked. In a numbers-obsessed game like baseball, I thought for certain at least some sports news service would mention that.

I remember what a big deal it was back in 1987 when the Salt Lake Trappers won 29 straight games, breaking the old pro baseball record. They were national celebrities.

Does no one think this was a significant accomplishment? I’m boggled. If he hits # 73 tomorrow, do you think anyone will note the fact that he broke Bauman’s record?

Just a WAG, but pitching in particular is sub-par at the minor legue level. That is, let’s say the typical quality of play is the majors is 1. If the quality of play in AA is .8, the pitching is probably no better than .65 or so. (The numbers are pulled out othe air to illustrate the point.) So perhaps hitting records in the minors aren’t as important as other records because everybody knows the pitching isn’t usually as good as the rest of the team’s play.


I don’t know anything about the player you refer to, but a couple thoughts crossed my mind. Of course the pitching is not comparable to the major league level. Also, you can have players such as Nick Johnson in the Yankees organization, who is “stuck” their due to Tino Martinez’s presence. I’m sure there are many players who really do have major league talent swatting away at minor-league pitching.

Also, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume there are also many players in the minor league who can crush the ball with the best of them, but are still developing other parts of their game, such as defensive skills, before they are ready to move up. 73 home runs on any level is impressive, but I wouldn’t think it comparable to Barry Bonds’ 72.

“there”, not “their”. I’m horrified I let that slip through.

Well, Bonds made it to 73, and as far as I can tell, no one has mentioned Joe Bauman at all… :frowning:

Chaim Mattis Keller

Bill Madden mentioned it in Sunday’s Daily News (NY)

But was that before or after the “lively ball?” Sheesh, I used to get sick of that qualifier when I was younger, but haven’t heard it recently. I guess all the antedilluvian sportscasters are finally dead and nobody cares how much tougher hitting records used to be.

The minors are, essentially, minor. The competition isn’t what it is as you ascend, so records, though interesting, don’t mean as much. No one compares Michael Jordan’s NBA records with college or high school records. It’s the same thing. And I don’t know anyone who pointed out that Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak isn’t the record (though that is also Dimaggio’s).


Well, I’m glad someone did. Good ol’ Bill.

Yes, the minors are not the same level of play that the majors are. Not nearly. Still, one would think that “All time professional record” would mean something to someone.

Good ol’ Bill Madden.

Chaim Mattis Keller

Bauman was mentioned here in 1999.

And the minors have a good site of their own.

I noticed it too!

Actually, I thought the record was 75 or 76, and so I was thinking it still stood. A shame. IIRC, Bauman also hit .400 that year with over 200 RBI. Now there’s a guy you wanna walk.
My theory is that the minor leagues are not as popular as the majors because of

  1. TV
  2. They aren’t trying to win.

They exist as feeders only, not as entities in their own rights. College Football and Basketball teams are obviously not as good as the pros, but they draw huge followings because they are, in fact trying to win. Minor League teams would be much more popular if they stopped losing guys in the middle of the season because they were called up. Let them play a full year or two and then “graduate.” Or else if you forced the majors to trade for the guy – If the Yankees want Nick Johnson, they have to give Tino Martinez to Columbus.

This is actually pretty much the way it worked for many years, up until Branch Rickey. Walter Johnson was one of many who was in the minors longer than he “should” have been, because his minor-league team wouldn’t give him away.

I found this while perusing today.

sheesh. sorry for screwing that up.

Well, I seem to be prescient. The AP has indeed picked up on the matter.


Chaim Mattis Keller

I think another factor in the relative silence about Bauman is that he set his record toward the end of an era in which there was often a huge discrepancy in talent levels among minor leaguers at a particular level. While the farm-team system was well-established by this time, there were still leagues where almost none of the clubs had working agreements with major league clubs.

Such was the case with the Longhorn League in 1954; only one of the eight clubs in the league had a working agreement with a big league team, and it wasn’t Bauman’s Roswell Rockets (if you must know, it was the Wichita Falls/Sweetwater Spudders, who were a Washington farm club). Management of such teams scrambled to find players wherever they could, and if they came across a guy like Bauman (who bought his own release from Artesia in the same league a couple of years before to sign with Roswell) who was quite capable of playing at a higher classification but who wanted to settle down locally and play for the hometown nine, so much the better – neither the club nor the player worried about what it might do to the level of competition.

Bauman himself supposedly turned down lots of offers to play at higher levels both before and after 1954 (he’d played in the American Association and Eastern League briefly before his stint in the Longhorn League). He was content to run his gas station and other local business interests in Roswell, whallop the hell out of Class C pitching (which certainly didn’t hurt business at the gas station), and make a lot more money with a lot more security than he’d have had knocking around from city to city, league to league for another five or six years. With only eight teams in each league at the major league level, a whole lot of talented players decided that the security and local celebrity that came from settling down and playing for the local team for several years meant more money and a lot saner life than trying to crack the show. Bauman’s is only one of the best-known cases.

Within a few years, however, such a career was no longer an option. By 1960, nearly every remaining minor league team (dozens folded in the mid/late 1950s) was affiliated with a big league club. Take Bauman’s Longhorn League: it grew to ten clubs in 1956, of which two had working agreements, shrank back to eight in 1957, again with two farm teams, then down to six in 1958, with all of them being farm clubs of major league teams. That remained the case until the league folded in 1961.

Even after the demise of independent minor league teams in the late 1950s, there were still a few guys who kicked around signing independent deals directly with the minor league club rather than the parent team, but they’ve grown rarer as the years have gone by, until today the practice is pretty much unheard-of. The rise of independent minor leagues has given such players a place to play, and the big league clubs don’t like ringers messing with the level of play in organized ball.

So you have to take Bauman’s accomplishment (and accomplishment it was) in that context. It’d be like Rob Deer or Pete Incaviglia electing to play at today’s Class A level, say in the South Atlantic League at Spartanburg in that old bandbox Duncan Park (dimensions: LF=319, CF=376, RF=319, compared with something like 330-385-330 in the thin air at Roswell), instead of kicking back and forth between AAA and the majors for years.

And yes, I’m aware that there hasn’t been a Sally League franchise in Spartanburg for several years now, but Duncan Park is such an apposite comparison to the one Bauman played in at Roswell that I couldn’t resist.