By Devon POV Mason | Contributor
Many American boys grow up dreaming of becoming major league baseball players. Harold Baines was one of those boys. In fact, he was obsessed with the goal at a very young age.
A resident of St.Michaels MD, where he grew up in the ’60s, neighbors said you’d never see Baines without his baseball glove. Before video games and long before St. Michaels became a very popular tourist destination, the Eastern Shore village was the small quintessential town one would associate with that era.
Like many of his generation, Baines played Little League but couldn’t have imagined that his dream of being a major league player would actually come to fruition.
Following a stellar high school career, Baines was drafted by the No. 1 overall pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1977. When drafted, then White Sox owner Bill Veeck told everyone that Baines’ next stop would be the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Baines played in the major leagues for 21 years between 1980-2001. First in a White Sox uniform and then as a Cleveland Indian, Oakland Athletic, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles.
When his knees went out and he could no longer play the outfield, he became one of baseball’s most feared and reliable designated hitters.
The always soft-spoken Baines never said much, but he was always reliable and popular amongst teammates and fans.
With the sport of baseball entering an era of self-promoting superstars in the ’90s, Baines was somewhat overlooked because he wasn’t an attention seeker. He was a throwback who took the field for the love of the game and the fact that he was living his boyhood dream, and not for money and attention.
Baines never left St. Michaels, where he and his wife raised their family. Although he may have gone to the city to play ball, the Eastern Shore always remained his home.
Baines didn’t change much from his little league days to his big league days, for him it was always about showing respect, being respected and getting better everyday.
A six-time All Star, Baines played 2,830 games as a major leaguer and drove in more runs than all but 33 players in the history of the game.
Some folks quipped at him being a Hall of Famer, as they pushed for their candidates and referenced the fact that their guy may have had more RBIs or a better batting average.
But anyone who followed the career of the St. Michaels star knows that there have been few better representatives of the game.
How soon folks forget Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth were among the first players selected to the Hall of Fame back in 1936, and they proved “that one doesn’t have to be good to be great.”
Many have been recognized for their talent and records alone. Men whose off-the-field behavior wasn’t exemplary, but their talent was undeniable. Men you admired for their athletic prowess, but wouldn’t invite to your home for dinner.
Harold Baines was exemplary in every way you’d want a player to be.
And that in itself is why his admission to Cooperstown should never be debated or questioned.
Baines was good and great!