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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Gene Baker

   (Born June 15, 1925) -- Batavia, New York, made some significant baseball history back in 1961. People outside of the town should know about it.

   The Pittsburgh Pirates had a farm team in Batavia in that season, and needed a manager. They picked a player who was a reserve from their 1960 World Series championship roster. Baker was that player.

   Here's the catch: He was an African American. Baker's selection made him the first person of color to be a manager in Organized Baseball. One of his players on that team was a 19-year-old Steve Blass, who went on to be a Series hero for the Pirates in 1971.

   Baker was a second baseman for the Chicago Cubs and the Pirates during his career. He played in the All-Star Game in 1955. His work in Batavia earned him a promotion to the Pirates, where in 1963 he became the second African American coach in major league history. Buck O'Neil was the first.

   Later, Baker worked as a scout in the Pirates' system for many years. He died in 1999 at the age of 74.

--- Budd Bailey

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