The first half of the twentieth century was a golden era for baseball in Maine. It was the heyday of the "town teams" - semi-professional groups of players who competed in such organizations as the Pine Tree League. One of the great stars of semi-professional baseball in Maine at that time was Ray Baum, whose subsequent career as a teacher/coach in Rumford positively impacted youngsters in that community.
Baum began his baseball career in his hometown of Lisbon Falls, where he played catcher for Lisbon Falls High School in 1925 and 1926 and served as team captain. Baum batted cleanup for the Lemons and was a prolific run producer. After a postgraduate year at Kents Hill Seminary, Baum attended Bay Path Institute in Springfield, Massachusetts. During his time at Bay Path, he was invited by the Cleveland Indians to play within their minor league system. However, to keep a commitment he made to his father, Baum elected to complete his postsecondary education.
Baum continued playing baseball in the Pine Tree League after high school. He played five seasons for the Lisbon Falls Lemons before joining the Lewiston-Auburn Buccaneers in 1928. Baum's knowledge of opposing hitters and ability to call a game proved to be a great asset to the Buccaneers during his six seasons with the team.
The Buccaneer backstop also earned a reputation for being one of the league's top clutch hitters and was perennially among the top RBI leaders in the conference. As one member of the fourth estate observed in 1932, "Ray doesn't punch as many base knocks as other members of the team but when men are on bases and runs are needed, he always came through." In 1932 he led Lewiston-Auburn to the league title and rapped out three hits in the championship game against Rumford. The following year Baum helped lead his team to the state semi-pro championship against Bucksport.
Baum served as a player/manager for two years, first with the Rumford Papermakers in 1937 and then for the Augusta Loggers of the Twi-Light League in 1938. While leading the Loggers to a 23-5 record and a runner-up finish in 1938, Baum also logged time behind the plate, at third base, and in right field.
Baum taught in the Business Education Department at Stephens High School of Rumford from 1930-1971 and served as department chairman for 21 years. He was the baseball coach at Stephens for two decades. In 1934 the Panthers posted an undefeated mark to earn the Sun-Journal League title outright and earned another conference championship in 1936. Led by Maine Baseball Hall of Famer and Maine Sports Hall of Famer Mike Puiia, Baum's charges upended Winslow 10-1 to earn the Maine State Interscholastic Championship in 1937.
The Panthers returned to state championship form in 1954. Baum piloted his team to an overall record of 15-4 and its second consecutive Androscoggin Valley League championship. Captains Danny Orino and Roger Pepin paced the Panthers to victories over Cheverus and Thornton Academy in the first two rounds of the playoffs before Rumford edged Stearns 5-4 in the state title game.
With his reputation as a strong fundamentalist, a positive role model, and an outstanding teacher of the game, Baum was an inspiration for numerous players who later became coaches themselves. A community leader, he was the first treasurer of the Rumford-Mexico-Dixfield Federal Credit Union and the first president of the Rumford Teachers Association. He died in 1986. He was married to the former Stella Politis and had three children - Raymond, Jr., Beverly, and Edward.
Maine Sports Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 2
Cumberland, ME 04021
Phone (207) 807-7666
The Maine Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1972 for the purpose of: 1) appointing and bestowing recognition awards and scholarships to outstanding Maine high school scholar-athletes; and, 2) to formally honor and memorialize Maine athletes and sports figures who have brought distinction and honor to the state of Maine.