SCOTTISH football was united yesterday in mourning the passing of the former Motherwell, St Mirren and Hibernian striker Gerry Baker, who died on Saturday.
An American international, and elder brother of England international Joe, Gerard Austin Baker passed away following a short illness.
Gerry succeeded Joe in the Hibs front line, and last night the Easter Road club paid tribute on their website. “Everybody at Hibernian was saddened to learn our former striker Gerry Baker has passed away,” a statement said. “Walter Galbraith’s first signing as Hibernian manager in 1961, Gerry Baker performed consistently well for the team in green [and] proved to the Hibernian public that, like his wee brother Joe, he was a natural goalscorer. His association with Hibernian may have been brief, but he was our first ‘foreign’ player and left a lasting impression at Easter Road. There will always be a special place for the Baker brothers in Hibernian folklore.”
Author Tom Maxwell, whose book about the brothers, The Fabulous Baker Boys, will be published next week, worked extensively with Gerry, and with Joe’s son Colin, in preparing the text. “He was a really nice guy – one of those genuine, happy men,” Maxwell said yesterday.
“He had a collapse last year and the way he responded was typical Gerry. When I phoned him up and asked about it a while later, he just shrugged and laughed and said ‘I thought I was a goner’. That was the way he approached life, always happy-go-lucky. He was the sort of man who would give you a hug when he met you, treating you like a long-lost son.”
Born in 1938 in New Rochelle, New York state, Baker grew up mainly in Motherwell, and joined the Fir Park side in 1956 after a brief period as a Chelsea player. He went on to play for many clubs on both sides of the Border in a career that went on until 1975, but is particularly remembered for his part in St Mirren’s 1959 Scottish Cup triumph.
He made a scoring debut for the Paisley club in a cup match against a Hibs team that included Joe, and went on to score in every other round as well – including the final, in which St Mirren beat Aberdeen 3-1. He went on to join Hibs in 1961, after a season with Manchester City, and after two years at Easter Road moved on to Ipswich, where he enjoyed the most productive spell of his career. Towards the end of that career he won seven caps for the country of his birth, scoring twice in a World Cup qualifier against Bermuda.
Only last month, Gerry attended the funeral of another celebrated Hibs player, Lawrie Reilly. Joe, an England international, died in 2003.