Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the 22-year career of Harold Baines.Baines is regarded as one of the greatest players in White Sox
Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the 22-year career of Harold Baines.
Baines is regarded as one of the greatest players in White Sox history, retiring in 2001 with the most home runs of any White Sox player (221). That now ranks third in franchise history, behind Frank Thomas (448) and Paul Konerko (432). Baines was a six-time All-Star and one of the greatest designated hitters of all time during a 22-year MLB career spanning from 1980-2001.
Baines was born on March 15, 1959, in Easton, Md. He was selected No. 1 overall by the White Sox in the 1977 MLB Draft out of St. Michael's High School in Easton. He moved rapidly through Chicago's farm system and made his big league debut as a 21-year-old on April 10, 1980.
Baines quickly became a fan favorite on the South Side of Chicago, hitting 20 or more home runs every season from 1982-87. In 1984, he put together his finest season to that point, belting a career-high 29 homers and leading MLB with a .541 slugging percentage. Baines played right field for Chicago until 1986, when a knee injury that subsequently became a chronic problem prompted the White Sox to make him a full-time designated hitter.
Baines was selected to his first All-Star team in 1985, and would be an All-Star again in 1986, '87 and '89 for Chicago before being traded to the Rangers midway through the '89 season. In August 1990, Texas traded him to the defending World Series champion Athletics. Baines hit .357 (5-for-14) with a double in the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, helping Oakland reach the World Series for the third consecutive year.
The following season, Baines posted a .295/.383/.473 slash line with 20 home runs for Oakland, being selected as an AL All-Star for the fifth time. In 1992, he again helped the A's reach the postseason, and had a stellar ALCS against the Blue Jays. In the ninth inning of Game 1 at Toronto, Baines hit a ninth-inning homer off Hall of Famer Jack Morris that proved to be the deciding run in a 4-3 Oakland victory. Overall, he hit .440 (11-for-25) with two doubles and that homer for the series, though Toronto would ultimately win the pennant.
That offseason, the A's traded Baines to the Orioles, and from this point to the end of his career, he would have multiple stints with the O's and White Sox, with a stop in Cleveland for 28 games in 1999. From 1993-2001, between the ages of 34 and 42, Baines posted a .296/.376/.482 slash line with 143 home runs. In '99, he turned in another All-Star campaign, recorded a .312/.387/.533 slash line with 25 home runs in 135 games between the Orioles and Indians.
Baines shined again in the postseason for the Orioles in 1997, hitting .364 (8-for-22) with two home runs as Baltimore fell in six games to the Indians in the ALCS. Two years later, he hit .357 (5-for-14) with a homer for Cleveland in the AL Division Series vs. Boston.
When Baines retired in 2001, he was the all-time leader in games played as a DH (1,643). David Ortiz surpassed that mark in 2014. In all, Baines hit 384 home runs with a 121 OPS+ over 22 seasons.
Following his playing career, Baines became the White Sox bench coach in 2004. From 2006-12, he was Chicago's first base coach, and from 2013-16, the club's assistant hitting coach. He now serves the organization as a team ambassador.
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.