Arsenal’s Century Club – Joe Baker
Joseph Henry Baker (17 July 1940 – 6 October 2003) was born in Woolton in Liverpool, England however he spent virtually his entire childhood growing up in Motherwell, Scotland. Joe Baker’s mother was Scottish. His father was also born in Woolton and was a sailor; while living in New York in 1938, Joe’s elder brother, Gerry, was born. Early on in the Second World War the family returned from the United States to their hometown Liverpool as Joe’s father George felt he had to enlist and do his bit to help with the war effort and follow the example of his four brothers who were all serving in the British navy.
Liverpool became a prime target for the Luftwaffe. After London it was the second most important port with the docks being heavily blitzed with 4,000 people losing their lives. Joe’s mother Lizzie wasn’t going to let her boys become victims and the family moved up to Wilshaw just outside Motherwell in Scotland to stay with Joe’s grandmother to escape the bombing when Joe was just six weeks old.
In 1944 George’s ship was blown up when returning home across the English Channel. Ironically it was a British mine that blew it up. George was one of the few survivors but was badly injured and had a lump of shrapnel in his stomach. He also lost his bladder and was constantly in and out of hospital over the next four years before finally succumbing to his injuries and losing his battle for life.
Joe, who was a centre forward spent a month on trial with Chelsea as a youngster, but was not signed. However he signed professional terms with Hibernian after playing junior football for local Coltness United, and was then farmed out to another junior team, Armadale Thistle. In his first season with Hibs, the 17-year-old Baker scored all four goals in Hibs’ 4–3 victory over city rivals Hearts in the quarter-final of the 1958 Scottish Cup. Baker played in the 1958 Scottish Cup Final, which Hibs lost 1–0 to Clyde. He also scored nine goals in a Scottish Cup tie against Peebles Rovers. Baker was Hibs’ top goal scorer for four consecutive seasons, scoring a club record 42 goals in 33 league games during the 1959–60 season. He scored 102 goals in just 117 league games and 159 goals in all competitions for the Edinburgh club.
In 1961, Baker was transferred to Torino after the Hibs board refused to give him a £5 wage increase from his existing wage of £12 a week. Torino paid £75,000 for him and he shared a flat in the city with fellow new boy, Denis Law. He began well, scoring twice on his home debut, though his proudest achievement was definitely bagging the winner against Juventus in the Turin derby. It endeared him to fans, but his fondness for nightclubs brought unwanted attention from paparazzi and in one argument with a photographer, the snapper ended up in a Venetian lake.
His time at the Italian club was short and almost ended in tragedy. Baker was involved in a serious car crash, which meant that he needed life-saving surgery and spent over a month on a drip feed. It was a generally unhappy spell as Baker did not like the press intrusion, which meant that he and team mate Denis Law spent most of their time in their Turin apartment.
Baker recovered from his injuries and he returned to the UK in July 1962, joining Billy Wright’s Arsenal who, following a string of intense medical tests, paid a club record £70,000 for the 22-year-old. It was at Arsenal where he regained the prolific form which had initially earned him a move abroad. Strong, skilful and quick, Baker was deadly in the box and scored on his debut against Leyton Orient and finished as top scorer in all four of his seasons. Having been used to the tight marking of Italian defenders, all of a sudden he had space to play and he certainly made it count by scoring 100 goals in 156 games for the Gunners.
At 5ft 7in, he was a fearless striker, who in addition to goals, made sure his opponents knew he was not to be messed with. Liverpool’s 6ft 2in Ron Yeats found that out when he was floored by Baker during a game at Highbury, which saw both players sent off.
Frank McLintock said this about him “Joe Baker was a phenomenal player. He was all you could want in a goal scorer – equally adept with both feet and with the sort of pace Ian Rush later used to such advantage. I love players like Joe, with the economical grace of Jimmy Greaves, the short back-lift when they shot and the bravery that distinguishes the great from the merely good. Joe once knocked out Ron Yeats with a punch, which, of course, I can’t condone. But there’s a part of me that admired his courage in even trying it on with someone as intimidating as Liverpool’s tough as teak centre half”
On another occasion during a pre-season tour of the West Indies, Baker’s aggression is said to have caused a riot. ‘He head-butted one of the Jamaican players and the game got abandoned,’ Peter Storey said.
After a disappointing 1965–66 season Wright sold Baker to Nottingham Forest for £65,000. Baker had a successful 1966/67 at Forest, as the club finished runners-up in the top division to the following season’s European Cup Winners, Matt Busby’s Manchester United who included Baker’s ex Torino team mate, Denis Law.
After three years at Forest, Baker had scored 41 goals in 118 league games. He then moved to Sunderland for a fee of £30,000. Baker spent the following two seasons playing for the Black Cats. Baker returned to Hibernian for a second time in 1971 and scored 12 goals in 30 appearances. He moved to Raith Rovers in 1972. He retired in 1974, having in all scored 301 league goals in 507 games.
He is notable for being the first professional player to have played for England without having previously played in the English football league system, and for scoring over 100 goals in both the English and Scottish leagues.
He scored his 100th and final goal for Arsenal against Sheffield Wednesday at Highbury on December 28th, 1965.
Joe suffered a heart attack during a charity golf tournament and passed away in Wishaw General Hospital soon after, he was only 63 years old.
|Arsenal’s Century Club|
|** Games played to reach 100 goals.|
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Great background info, GN5. JB has been everywhere! The idea of him returning from Italy and then finding the game so much easier is interesting. Maybe that is also what Bergkamp enjoyed when he left Italy for the PL. These days the defending in the PL is as good as anywhere.
I’ve gotta say that the quality of the post by GunnerN5 deserves a bit more of a comment, so I shall oblige…
I really enjoyed the background info about his father as I didn’t know any of that, it’s a story that many of Joe’s generation could probably tell and no doubt shaped his character. I’m not 100% but didn’t Joe’s brother player football and didn’t he represent Scotland, correct me if I’m wrong as I’ve probably mixed him up with another Baker?
I never saw Joe Baker play but I had a very good Arsenal friend from my time in the post office and he being 6 years older than me saw Joe in his pomp. He loved Joe and to him Baker was a bit of a hero as Charlie George was my hero and he regaled me with stories of Joe’s swashbuckling style and his many goals. His favourite tale was the aforementioned Ron Yeats incident. Yeats was a big uncompromising centre back who took no prisoners and in true Yeats style had been ‘kicking the sh*t out of Joe’ all through the game. Well I guess that Baker just reached boiling point and after another industrial challenge Baker just turned around and executed a sharp right hook onto Yeats’ jutting jaw and the big man went down like a sack of excrement.
It did make me chuckle…
I believe that Baker and Eastham were part of a group on senior players who took advantage of the weak managerial style of Billy Wright in the mid 1960’s as Arsenal stagnated and the Board did little to change things – a recurring theme at Arsenal over the years!
So when Wright was sacked following another dismal season and the infamous 4,000 odd crowd at Highbury vs Leeds and Bertie Mee got the gig, the first thing Bertie did was sell Eastham and Baker.
Great piece on Lauren – it shows just how much is missing in today’s Arsenal.
Thank you for the comment allezkev, I saw every one of Baker’s games at Highbury. He was a natural goal scorer and a bit of a fancy boy – It was great to see him play – but sad that it was for Billy Wright. That was a very indifferent period in our history – but we were loyal fans and cheered the team on regardless of our league position – which in the Wright/Baker era was 7th, 8th, 13th, and 14th.
Your welcome GunnerN5, I always enjoyed your work on AA, not least the occasional b/w pic.
You certainly must have watched some dire football during the late 50’s early 60’s, the club promising jam tomorrow but lacking the ambition to deliver.
I think my worst era was following the hasty break up of the 70/71 squad and prior to the resignation of Bertie Mee and it didn’t improve until Don Howe returned under Terry Neill.
Exclusive: Premier League will restart on June 17 with Aston Villa at home to Sheffield United and Manchester City hosting Arsenal.
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allezkec – Joe’s elder brother Gerry was also a professional football player but was not at the same level as Joe.
Oh boy – It will be great to see football again – even with an empty stadium.
Hey fellas, quick one here to say that I’m still enjoying the series on Arsenal’s quickest to 100…a list PBJ (Pretty Boy Joe?) Baker only barely made… Also, that I successfully switched countries, following the advice of my Dutch friend (currently living in Scotland)… Interesting the Scottish connections of Baker…TA, do you ever take a gander at Hibs or Hearts?…
Down here there is no virus and no fear of it, either…which is nice (and welcoming…) but actually worries me just a hair. It seems all too human that we only see black or white (fight or flight, right or left, etc., etc…) but there’s a whole spectrum–on every subject–when you dig (just a little) deeper… And folks will be coming from the cities to party on the beach (or otherwise gathering and then heading back home to their elders–or others who might be unlucky and severely affected by the virus–which just doesn’t care, or at least has a logic all it’s own). At least a lot of the life in this area is lived in outdoor or in only shaded spaces. In fact, a shade structure is what I’m trying to get built in the short time I’m here…The rainy season is coming, however…
Back to the football… So, games have been scheduled…hmmm… Si dios quiere (if god wants) I’ll be back in front of a big screen by then and ducking the tourists in my usual semi-lockdown, but it’s possible I might up for some live-blogging. In general I think it’s a serious re-start for most things Arte-senal. I expect some significant changes, with some players being more “ready” than others. I have a feeling that some guys who might’ve started back on March 11 (at ManCity) may never kick another ball in the red with white sleeves…
Finally, the interview with Lauren a worthwhile read, I think. That description of the sounds and feelings of English football resonates…in a way that playing behind closed doors won’t…and hopefully not too many folks will get too cozy trying to gather in groups with aerosolized (aerosolised?) bubbles of beer (and virus) flying around among spirited–and/or arguing or even fighting Gooners (if dennis forbid results don’t satisfy… That sense of just being grateful for the football won’t last very long, I fear…
You made it to Mexico in time it seems, 17HT. How did you get there?
Good luck with getting shade and yes the footie should recommence soon, for better or for worse. 😕
I really like the name Hearts of Midlothian. It reminds of my romantic phase when I had albums of Marillion. I have been thinking of getting a season ticket but they have just been relegated. I am nearer to Hibbs… but that is not really my cup of Allezkev-cha!
Total you should go for it, you could be our ‘Man in Scotland’ scouting among the glens for our next Kieran Tierney… 😀
Kev, I am tempted to do it once it is possible again. Just to see live footie without too much pressure or pretence could be fun. 🙂
How are you getting on now, Kev? Back at work or still at home?
I’m still at home Total but I’m keeping busy, I must have the best kept garden in Essex.
How are things up in Scotia now that things are being relaxed?
We have no garden, allezkev! 🙂
Things are fine though. Fab weather and Nicola is allowing us to meet up with another household now – one at a time!
Watched the Bundesliga game tonight. That boy Harvertz really looks like a superb Ramsey replacement. But I guess he is already too expensive for us and Leverkusen will not be in a rush to sell either.
George Lewis, the Norwegian/Rwandan kid, seems as if we’ve signed him as he’s changed his Twitter account picture to him in an Arsenal shirt. He plays right wing/midfield so that’s competition for Pepe, Nelson etc.
Not known to me, Kev. Do you know him?
To be able to play alongside the great Denis Law in Italy must be a good experience for him. And he is a great striker too.
TA, good to hear that you have started to get in touch with the outside world. It must be feeling quite good to connect with other households.
It is, 84, we can only meet with one other household at a time (OOHAAT) though, and we need to keep a two meter distance and not use their toilet/bathroom facilities.
How are things in Singapore?
My son delivered our weekly groceries and then stayed with us for a few hours to have a couple of glasses of wine – we all sat 6/8′ apart. It was good to have a face to face chat.
Earlier in the day he took me to one of my appointments at a local hospital – he was not allowed in, they made me sanitize my hands and gave me a new mask at the entrance. Inside the hospital every chair was spaced 6′ apart and you had to follow a marked out path both in and out of the hospital. In order for my son to be involved in the appointment they phoned him and left the phone in the doctor’s office on speaker – all very well arranged and very civilized – I felt very safe from covid.
Total, there’s some grainy video of Lewis on YouTube playing in Norway with some questionable rave music as background and that’s really irritating, but other than that I know about as much as anyone else about young George.
I couldn’t watch too much of the vids as the picture quality was terrible and the music made me feel like losing the will to live, but the 90 seconds or so that I saw tells me that he’s a long shot, a Cohen Bramell type signing, worth a punt as you might end up with a Martinelli but if it goes tits up it’s not a disaster.
There were a few slightly cynical remarks linking his signing to our sleeve sponsorship and maybe that does have some traction, but I’d like to think (hope) that it’s Raul trying to outsmart the market.
No garden Total, are you in a flat/apartment with balcony?
If so then get some pots in mate, grow some tomatoes or something exotic. 😉
Good to hear you are feeling safe in your country, GN5. It all sounds very professional. In times like these it really is good to live in a small country (in terms of total number of inhabitants). Female leadership also helps.
Thanks Kev. Sounds like a long shot indeed. FIngers crossed he will become a future Invincibles(2). 🙂
No garden, no balcony, Kev. But we live at Victoria Park and there are three more parks to visit within a 10 minutes walk. It is green and spaced out around here and the growing we do on inside. Daughter loves having plants in her room and is now even selling cuttings through the post with whopping margins! 🙂
Your daughter sounds like a bit of an entrepreneur Total, that’s to be encouraged mate.
Maybe a future garden centre magnate in the making? 🙂
Earlier this season, Sir Chips Keswick was very much in favour of bringing David O’Leary onto the Board of Directors, reasons given was to lower the average age of the Board, to bring some football expertise onto the Board (as is the case at clubs like Bayern) and not least because O’Leary has had a long history with the club.
Reactions were mixed initially as some Arsenal fans haven’t forgiven O’Leary for some of the things he said about Arsenal and the way he acted when he was the then manager of Leeds.
A lack of judgement on his behalf I’d say in retrospect, a lack of grace for sure, but let’s not forget that he was also the one player who stayed at Arsenal when Brady and Stapleton left.
On balance I was broadly in favour of him joining the Board.
Absent Stan of course has the final say and as far as anyone knows respects the opinions of the current Board members despite the fact that they have no real power anymore. Hill Wood was probably the last Director with any real clout.
The story goes that Raul wasn’t too happy with these developments and his influence with KSE basically blocked O’Leary joining the Board.
I’m not really sure why Raul felt so strongly or seemingly felt so threatened by an ex Arsenal centre half joining the Board that he felt that he had to intervene in this way?
Maybe there were tensions behind the scenes, a power struggle between the executives and the Board or a battle of wills between Keswick and Raul personally perhaps?
Sven Mislintat would probably have an interesting view!
Anyway if I recall Keswick announced shortly afterwards that he would be retiring at the end of this season and he recently confirmed that and It leaves us with two old fellas in our Boardroom with no influence and no power.
It also leaves us with no checks and balances on Raul, Edu and co which kind of makes me feel a little concerned since we learned today that football agents earned £6m from brokering the £8m transfer of David Luiz from Chelsea to Arsenal.
Now would that deal have been sanctioned if the Board had had some say on these matters I wonder?
I not saying whose right and who is wrong because after last summer the majority of Arsenal fans were calling Raul, Don Raul and praising him for his business in the transfer market. But all the same when agents get their feet under the table there’s usually only one outcome and it isn’t positive…
Interesting stuff there, Kev. It does not sound good but I guess it is hard to know what is actually true of all this. It does feel that we are moving more and more away from the traditional values of the club and it is not clear what sort of club Kroenke and his BOD want Arsenal to become. We had something special for a long time but it all seems to be changing now.
The problem is, Kev, my daughter wants to spend any new earnings on new plants straightaway… 🙂
Reinvesting in her business Total, she seems to have a sound business brain. 🙂
Maybe a degree in horticulture at Edinburgh University is written in the stars? 😀
Once Ken Friar and Lord Harris retire I think that that will signal the end of a Board of Directors at Arsenal Total, I mean at Tottenham it’s Levy, Chelsea similar and at Man Utd and Man City, they all have CEO’s. Is it the American model or are other European clubs run along similar lines. In France don’t they have a President, is he just an owner, with a management team alongside, I’m guessing here? I bet that PSG have a CEO, as for Spain and Germany and Italy, do they have BoD’s?
Like you, I’m concerned that the special way Arsenal conducted itself is ebbing away, it’s all about the bottom line more than at any time I can remember. Maybe it’s the modern way?
I just worry about the quality of the people we have in charge…
You are asking some good questions, Kev, to which I have no answer without researching it. I think we agree that the modern way is not really competitive with the ‘Arsenal special way’ of the past. The leadership of the club is getting more and more disconnected with the fanbase and surely that is not a good thing.
Agree Total, I think that Arteta picked up on that as soon as he rejoined the club and he’s done a great job reconnecting the fans with the players, but for the owners the disconnection come from them being absent and the feeling that they don’t care. Tbh KSE have done pretty nothing to rectify that feeling and despite the best efforts of Josh there is a clear antipathy between the fans and Stan.
As for Raul, Edu and Vinnie they’re not out of the same mould as Friar for example, they’re just passing through, like Gazidis.
It has grown too big, Kev. Turnover is so big now and most of the cost are constant/protected by contracts. It is all about keeping the tanker afloat now. Next 12 months will be v ‘interesting’.
New Post 🙂