Mary Geraldine George Baker
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 5", Weight 133 lb.
- Born July 10, 1918 in Regina, SK Canada
- Died December 17, 2003 in St. Marys, ON Canada
Catcher Bonnie Baker was the only woman hired to manage full-time in the AAGPBL. She also played nine years in the league, once finishing second in batting average.
Baker was one of nine children in her family, all of whom became catchers; her sister Gene McFaul also played in the AAGPBL. Baker, a former model, was often chosen by the league to pose for publicity shots and act as a league spokesperson. Baker was the league’s most publicized player and was referred to as "Pretty Bonnie Baker" by the press. She appeared on the popular television show What's My Line? and her picture also appeared in Life magazine.
When her husband went overseas during World War II, she joined the AAGPBL in its first year, 1943, promising to quit the game when he returned. She hit .250/~.314/.305 and hit her lone career home run (in 3,308 AB). The South Bend Blue Sox backstop finished 10th in the league with 46 stolen bases and only struck out six times in 256 AB.
In 1944, Baker hit .236/~.325/.260 and stole 92 bases. She finished fourth in runs in 1945 (49) and batted .236/~.305/.277 for South Bend. She made the league's first All-Star team in 1946 as the #1 catcher and produced at a .286/~.405/.311 clip. She also stole 94 bases in 94 games and had a .965 fielding percentage. She was second to Sophie Kurys in OBP, tied Kurys for second in average behind Dorothy Kamenshek and was 8th in steals. In the playoffs, she went 4 for 21 but with 6 runs and 5 steals, both leading the team.
During the 1947 season, the 28/29-year-old slipped to a .217/~.293/.236 batting line and was 5th in the loop with 54 runs scored. She went 8 for 18 in the playoffs and scored 3 runs in 5 games as South Bend's top hitter in a losing effort. The next season, she hit .233/~.315/.256. She went 8 for 26 in the playoffs, again leading South Bend in a losing cause. In 1949, the veteran only managed a .216/~.276/.235 line at the plate but tied Ziggy Ziegler and Betty Wagoner for 8th in runs (58) and tied Charlene Pryer for 4th in steals (68). She was 1 for 14 in the post-season.
She started 1950 back in South Bend but finished as the player-manager of the Kalamazoo Lassies, hitting .244/~.316/.264 overall. The struggling Lassies placed last in the league with a 36-73 record. The following year the league passed a rule banning female managers. Baker skipped the 1951 season to have a daughter, Maureen. In 1952 she returned for one last year with Kalamazoo, hitting .208/~.282/.227.
Overall, Baker batted .235/~.318/.261 in 930 games, stealing 504 bases. In the postseason, she hit .253/?/.278 in 18 contests and swiped six bases. Her career fielding average was .953.
She returned to Saskatchewan, where she led the Regina Legion softball team to the World Ladies Softball title. In 1964-65 she worked for Regina radio station CKRM, as the first female sports broadcaster in Canada. She also managed the Wheat City Curling Club for 25 years.
Baker died of respiratory failure at 84. Fellow AAGPBL player Arleene Noga remembers her as "a complete player with all five tools — a real competitor." In 1998 she was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. She is also a member of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame, and is part of the special exhibit on the AAGPBL in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Several people have claimed that Geena Davis's character in A League Of Their Own was based on Baker.
Sources: The AAGPBL Record Book by W.C. Madden, The Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers, 1945 Dell Baseball Guide
- Mary Baker article at Wikipedia
- Her entry in the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan
- Obituary from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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