New Mexico became a state in 1912. President Taft was a big booster,
Teddy Roosevelt, less so. Even before statehood New Mexico was issuing
automobile license plates.
There were even porcelain license plates, in New Mexico and elsewhere.
If you'd like to see some of the scenery in southern New Mexico, without actually going there, follow along with this RV enthusiast. The first part of his trip is in Texas, so the link at right skips past that part right to Lincoln, New Mexico. Our guide visits the court house, the Tunstall store, and other leftovers from the Lincoln County War. From there he goes to Fort Stanton, (where he finds an early picture of Black Jack Pershing of Pancho Villa and WW I fame), which was a German Detainee camp during WW II, then to White Sands Missile Range, where he sees evidence of the early atomic bomb and missile programs, then on to Ft Selden in the Messilla Valley, where General Douglas McArthur learned to ride and shoot, then to Percha Dam State Park, Gila National Forest, and back to Trinity Site.
The picture above links to a NY Times account of Bauman.
Quick now, when Barry Bonds hit his 73rd home run
in 2001, whose professional baseball record did he break? You’re right, it’s a
trick question. If you answered Mark McGuire, you read “major league baseball,”
instead of “professional baseball.” The right answer is Joe Bauman, who hit 72
home runs in 1954, while playing in Roswell, New Mexico, for the Roswell
Rockets. In those days people in Roswell hadn’t yet realized, as we know today,
they were being invaded by Martians. If they had, they might have suspected
Bauman. They’d also have concluded, the Martians are okay. Joe was one of those rarities in American celebrity, a man who valued his life, what we might redundantly refer to as his "personal life," above his celebrity or the promise of it. You can find out more about this remarkable man from
The Society for American Baseball Research, newspapers,
more newspapers,more newspapers,even more newspapers,books,more books, and even some Ancestry message boards, and again. If you'd
like a brilliantly written, feel-of-the-season, 1954-centric narrative
of Joe Bauman's chase for the record, try Joe Posnanski's article,
published on his website at the link to the left, or Gary Cieradkowski's blog next to it. By the way, I have recently discovered that a relative of mine, Pat Stasey, was managing the Roswell Rockets during Joe's record-breaking year, and he was the one who moved Joe up from cleanup spot to leadoff, giving him more at bats for the year. Stasey's professional baseball career spanned the years 1938 to 1955. He was a fearsome hitter whose best days might have been at Big Spring, Texas. He was probably in and out of Carlsbad frequently, playing the local Potashers, when I lived there in the early 1950s, but we had lost touch with that branch of the family, and knew nothing about it. After retiring his bat, he went to the Midland Indians as GM. Pat's picture, at left, links to a story about his legacy in the Stasey family.
I've been reminded of another New Mexico baseball phenomenon,
this one also in southern New Mexico. It came August 11, 1959 at Montgomery field in Carlsbad where the Carlsbad Potashers were playing the Odessa Dodgers. Carlsbad outfielder Gil Carter faced pitcher Wayne Schaper. He hit the first pitch, a fast ball, into a peach tree in someone's back yard, two blocks away. The homeowner found the ball on the ground among some peaches dislodged from her tree by the ball's descent. Club owner, Charley Montgomery, used an aerial photograph taken by the local sports editor, along with some plat maps (Charley developed the neighborhood near the field) and measured the distance as 730 feet from home plate. The local paper, the "Carlsbad Current-Argus," documented Mr. Carter's feat, as did "The Sporting News," and "Sports Illustrated" (twenty-one years later). These and other stories have arbitrarily reduced the measured distance for fear of being dismissed as ridiculous. The Minor League Baseball Encyclopedia uses the shorter, purely fictional, distance of 650 feet for its official citation. The picture, above left, is the aerial photo used to measure the length of the drive. It links to the Elysian Fields Quarterly article of 2001 by Jerry Dorbin.
Carter, speaking in 2006, said of his prodigious New Mexico hit: "I haven't hit a ball harder and certainly not that far. I watched it go, and it came down two blocks from the ballpark. I knew it was something special. I could feel it in my bat when I hit it. I just stood there and watched it."
Carter was playing in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Giants and the Memphis Mud Hens before being signed by Chicago Cubs scout, and legendary Negro Leagues player, Buck O'Neil. He played three years in the Cub's minor league system.
After baseball, Mr. Carter became a bus driver in Wichita and played baseball and fast pitch softball for several years, becoming active in youth programs in later years.
Gil Carter died in 2015 in Topeka Kansas. He has been inducted into the Shawnee County Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame, and received the Pride of Kansas Award from the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. He had a short professional career, including being named to the Northern League All-Star team in 1960, after which he played semi-pro baseball and did extensive work with youth programs in Wichita and Topeka. He helped the Wichita Rapid Transit Dreamliners win championships in 1962 and 1963.
The picture at the right links to an article in the July 25, 2015 Wichita Eagle, about Carter's award from the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Below are some additional links to information about Gil Carter, along with a video that features an interview with him late in life.
Gill Carter Slide show from Sunflower Publishing
Gill Carter honored by Kansas City Royals in 2010
Gill Carter Obituary in the Topeka-Capital Journal
Above is a Youtube video featuring an interview with Gil Carter.
Jal, New Mexico
Our neighbors to the north, up around Santa Fe and
Taos, sometimes forget there is any enchantment south of
Albuquerque. That’s understandable given the rich culture and extravagant
beauty of that area. No one could blame them for seeming provincial, in the
Boston or New York sense of that term. Driving further south, though, will get
you to things like this. These critters grace the skyline outside Jal, a perpetual range-ride worth seeing.
Or Check out the Facebook groups. Yes, we have internet in New Mexico!! For the really adventurous, a visit to Mudgap could be the ticket, if you want to get beyond Google Maps (don't bother asking, they won't tell you).
We will be collecting research on the subject at this location. Check back for updates.