One of the better trivia questions about the Cincinnati Reds goes
something like this:
"Who was the Reds second baseman on Opening Day in 1961, the year the
Reds won the pennant?"
Most answer that it was Don Blasingame. Wrong.
Blasingame didn't come to the Reds until April 27 in a trade for catcher
The player who started out that season of 1961 as the second baseman was
Jim Baumer, who later went on to become general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Baumer, signed originally by the Chicago White Sox, had an unusual
career. He spent most of his playing days in the minor leagues and went
12 years between major league games.
Signed as a $50,000 bonus baby after high school graduation in Broken
Arrow, Oklahoma, in 1949, Baumer appeared in eight games
with the White Sox at the end
of that season. His name didn't make it into another big league box
score until Opening Day 1961, when he was listed as the No. 8 hitter for
the Reds, starting at second base.
The Reds had traded Billy
Martin to Cleveland and needed a second baseman. They got Baumer in the
minor league draft before the start of the 1961 season, plucking him off
the Salt Lake City roster.
He was never much of a minor
league hitter, but he had a big year at Salt Lake City in 1960. He
impressed scout Bobby Mattick, now the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays,
and Dick Sisler, manager of the Reds Pacific Coast League farm team in
Seattle. He batted . 293 and hit 14 home runs in
1960. It looked like the Reds might be getting a real find.
"We would have invited him to
train with us in '61 if Cincy hadn't drafted him," Pittsburgh Pirates
general manager Joe Brown said. "He has versatility. You probably
wouldn't call him great but he does everything well. We gave
serious consideration to bring him up for our pennant drive (in 1960)
when (Dick) Groat was injured."
From his start with the Reds,
though, it was apparent Baumer would not hit much. General manager Bill
DeWitt wanted a more steady and experienced second baseman. When Baumer
had only three hits in his first
24 times at bat, he went to the bench. In late April, Blasingame came to
the Reds and Bailey went to the San Francisco Giants. It was a deal the
Reds could make because the Reds had several strong catchers.
Jim Baumer's career with the
Reds lasted only 10 games and his tenth game in a Cincinnati uniform was
his last in big league baseball.
Both Jim Baumer and Don
Blasingame are still in baseball today. The Philadelphia Phillies are
prospering from Baumer's front-office expertise. He is director of Minor
Leagues and Scouting for the Phils, and under his direction they have
put together one of the strongest farm systems in professional baseball.
participation in baseball is literally a world apart: he manages a
professional team in Japan. The Blazer went to the Orient in the
mid-1960s to play for the Nankai Hawks in Osaka, Japan. After a couple
of seasons, he joined the coaching staff and in 1970 was named the
team's manager-or as they call it in Japan, head coach. He is the only
American ever to hold that high position in Japanese baseball.