Primary Position: Catcher
Birthplace: Paw Creek
Full Name: William Presley
Date of Birth: Feb. 22, 1911 Date and Place of Death: April 13, 2006, Myrtle Beach, SC
Burial: Unity Church Cemetery, Woodleaf
High School: Boyden High School, Salisbury, NC
College: Did not attend
Bats: R Throws: R Height and Weight: 6-0, 200
Debut Year: 1940 Final Year: 1949 Years Played: 7
Teams and Years: Cincinnati Reds, 1940-41; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1941-43, 1946; St. Louis Cardinals, 1948-49
G AB H R RBI HR BA. OBP. SLG. WAR
263 588 145 45 68 2 .247 .328 .316 +0.6
Bill Baker spent a decade in the minor leagues as an everyday catcher before getting his shot in the majors in 1940. Though he would spend seven years with three National League clubs, Baker was never more than a backup catcher.
Born in the rural community of Paw Creek in Mecklenburg County, William Presley Baker was the second of Iva and Lawrence Edward’s seven children. Edward, a merchant, moved the family to nearby Salisbury, North Carolina, when Bill was 14 and opened a clothing and dry good store. Years later, Baker would often return home during the off seasons to work in his father’s store.
A football and baseball player at Boyden High School, Baker began playing semipro baseball around Charlotte after graduating as jobs became scarce at the start of the Great Depression.
Baker signed his first professional contract in 1931 to play for the Greensboro, North Carolna, Patriots in the Class C Piedmont League. He was an outfielder and pitcher but converted to catcher the following year on the advice of a teammate. He would be a dependable starting catcher over the next eight years in the minors.
Baker was 29 when the Cincinnati Reds, the defending National League champions, finally called him up as a backup to Ernie Lombardi, an established star and future Hall of Famer. Baker appeared in only 27 games that year. The Reds won another pennant, and Baker singled in one his four at bats in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
Two years in the Navy during World War II interrupted a major-league career in which Baker never saw much playing time. His best year was 1943 with the Pittsburgh Pirates when he hit .273 in 63 games.
After quitting as an active player after the 1949 season, Baker coached for a couple of years and umpired in the minor and major leagues until knees ravaged by years of squatting forced his retirement from baseball in 1959.
Baker returned to North Carolina and settled in Granite Quarry in Rowan County with his wife, Valdois. They had married in 1936 and had lived in Woodleaf, a small community near Salisbury where they raised three children.
In Granite Quarry, Baker was elected as a town alderman and served as commander of the local American Legion post. His work as commissioner of the county’s American Legion baseball earned him induction to the N.C. American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.
Bill and Valdois had been married for 52 years when she died in the summer of 1989. Over the years, Baker had become one of the oldest living major-league veterans. He eventually moved to the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to be closer to his daughter, Susan. He died there at age 95.