Wheeler Baker in­ducted to state Ath­letic Hall of Fame

Record Observer - - Community - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

GLEN BURNIE — Power­boat rac­ing cham­pion Wheeler Baker of Ch­ester was in­ducted into the Mary­land State Ath­letic Hall of Fame on Thurs­day evening, Nov. 3. Baker, a for­mer Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sioner and Mary­land 36th Dis­trict Del­e­gate, was the sixth na­tive Mary­lan­der rep­re­sent­ing power­boat rac­ing in the Hall of Fame’s 57-year his­tor y. He was in­ducted along with five oth­ers from dif­fer­ent sports.

Baker gained a love of boat rac­ing at the young age of 8. His late grand­fa­ther Ralph B. Baker and fa­ther Al­bert Baker both owned successful power­boats when Wheeler was a child. His fa­ther put Wheeler in his first boat, “a lit­tle out­board,” when he was 10. Wheeler raced in the “Wild­cat Race” held on the Wye River in 1955 as a young­ster. “That’s when I fell in love with boat rac­ing,” Baker said.

He served in the U.S. Air Force dur­ing the Viet­nam War in the 1960s. Upon his hon­or­able dis­charge, other than run­ning his own busi­ness, Baker’s Liquors in Ch­ester, it was all about fam­ily time and boat rac­ing. Baker drove for five dif­fer­ent es­tab­lished power boat groups, gain­ing more ex­pe­ri­ence.

In 1977, Baker owned his own first big power­boat, and 10 cham­pi­onships fol­lowed with a 30-year ca­reer in the sport, 1977 — 2007. He drove four dif­fer­ent classes of boats over the years, win­ning cham­pi­onships in them all — 5-Litre, 2.5 Litre, 6-Litre and 7-Litre. He was eight-time points cham­pion and was in­ducted into the APBA Hall fo Cham­pi­ons in 1987.

At the in­duc­tion cer­e­mony Thurs­day, Baker was quick to give credit to his fam­ily for help­ing him achieve suc­cess, es­pe­cially Holly, his wife of 47 years, for her long­time sup­port, and both his broth­ers, Tom and Ted.

“When I first started rac­ing, if I messed up, my broth­ers would take me aside and tell me what I was do­ing wrong,” Baker said. “Their ad­vice was price­less.”

Among his speed records is win­ning the 7-Litre class at Es­sex in 1987, av­er­ag­ing 117.5 miles per hour. He said, “I was fly­ing.”

He said, “If you made ex­penses you had a good week­end. No, there’s no money in power boat rac­ing. You’re out there be­cause you love it.”

He added, “It’s a ver y ex­cit­ing sport, very dan­ger­ous, but ex­cit­ing.”

Baker is cur­rently pres­i­dent of the Kent Nar­rows Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion and chair­man of Ch­ester­wye Foun­da­tion, which sup­ports pro­grams to help adults with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties.

Prior to the in­duc­tion cer­e­mony, Baker said, “I just hope I don’t start cry­ing. I can’t help it, I’m get­ting old. I’m lucky to be here.”

The five pre­vi­ous power­boat in­ductees were: Don­ald J. Christy in 1980, Al­ton C. Pier­son in 1983, Calvert “Skeeter” John­son in 1984, Ge­orge Cu­sick in 1991 and Ed­mund Thomp­son in 2004.

Baker in­tro­duced Pier­son at his Hall of Fame in­duc­tion in 1983. He called Pier­son his “child­hood hero in the sport.” Pier­son’s daugh­ter Bon­nie Pier­son Mes­six, of Ch­ester­town at­tended Baker’s in­duc­tion Thurs­day.

The other in­ductees in the Hall of Fame Class of 2016 in­clude Jack Thomas in lacrosse, Louis Carter in foot­ball, Lau­rie Sch­woy in soc­cer, Gary Job­son in sailing and Brady An­der­son is baseball.

A sur­prise dur­ing the cer­e­mony, Cal Rip­ken Jr., in­ducted in 2005, stopped by to tell sto­ries about his for­mer Ori­oles team­mate, An­der­son. The An­ge­los fam­ily that owns the Ori­oles and Ori­oles Man­ager Buck Showal­ter also at­tended.

Jim Hen­ne­man re­ceived the Stead­man Award for Sportswrit­ing, es­pe­cially his long­time cov­er­age of Ori­oles baseball.

To be con­sid­ered for in­duc­tion, the in­di­vid­ual must be a na­tive born cit­i­zen of Mary­land. Some pre­vi­ous in­ductees in­clude: Jim­mie Fox, Babe Ruth, Al Ka­line, Billy and Cal Rip­ken Jr., all baseball play­ers; foot­ball play­ers Lenny Moore, Art Dono­van, John

Mackey and Kevin Glover; golfer Fred Funk; and bas­ket­ball play­ers Tom McMillen and Wes Unseld

There have been a very few “adopted” in­ductees, who were not born in Mary­land but made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the state, most re­tir­ing from stel­lar pro­fes­sional ca­reers in their sport and stay­ing in Mary­land giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity, such as Johnny Uni­tas and Brooks Robin­son.

One an­i­mal has been in­ducted in the Md. Ath­letic Hall of Fame; the late Na­tive Dancer, Mary­land­born, Triple Crown win­ning thor­ough­bred, was in­ducted in 2014.

Some pre­vi­ous re­cip­i­ents of the John F. Stead­man Life­time Achieve­ment Award, which is given to a cit­i­zen whose life­time ca­reer in sports brought honor and dis­tinc­tion to Mary­land and its cit­i­zenr y, in­clude Mor­gan Wooten, De­matha bas­ket­ball coach; Chuck Thomp­son, broad­caster; Or­lando “Tubby” Smith, bas­ket­ball coach, and Johnny Hol­i­day, sports­caster.

One spe­cial note, 77 peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing power oat rac­ing and hon­or­ing Wheeler Baker were in the au­di­ence Thurs­day evening, at Michael’s 8th Av­enue, where the pro­gram was held. The MSAHOF gallery is housed in­side The Babe Ruth Mu­seum at­tached to Ori­ole Park at Cam­den Yards. A bi­og­ra­phy of each in­ductee can be found there.


Mem­bers of the Mary­land State Ath­letic Hall of Fame, Class of 2016, are pic­tured fol­low­ing their in­duc­tion, Thurs­day evening, Nov. 3, at Michael’s 8th Av­enue in Glen Burnie. From the left, “John F. Stead­man Life­time Achieve­ment Award” re­cip­i­ent sportwriter Jim Hen­ne­man, soc­cer player Lau­rie Sch­woy, power­boat racer Wheeler Baker, Ori­oles baseball player Brady An­der­son, lacrosse player Jack Thomas, sailor Gary Job­son, and foot­ball player Louis Carter. Wheeler Baker rep­re­sented the Eastern Shore of Mary­land. All of the in­ductees are na­tive Mary­lan­ders who made their mark in their sports.


One spe­cial mo­ment, at his in­duc­tion to the Mary­land State Ath­letic Hall of Fame, Thurs­day evening, Nov. 3, in Glen Burnie, hon­oree Wheeler Baker was sur­rounded by his grand­daugh­ters, from the left, Lind­sey Baker, Baker, Re­gan Baker and Sydney Archey. The in­duc­tion cer­e­mony took place at Michael’s 8th Av­enue.

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