A 19-year-old Hibs striker with a broad Scottish accent is called up for England ––sounds like fantasy, but it actually happened back in 1959.
And now, former Advertiser reporter Tom Maxwell (34) has written a book that not only tells the incredible story of Joe Baker, but also of his brother Gerry – the first top-flight European footballer to represent the USA.
Tom’s book ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’, out on September 5, is about two of the greatest strikers Scotland never had.
Tom explained how it came about: “I wrote a book a couple of years ago about my team, Berwick Rangers, and I was kind of exploring that era [50s and 60s] when I kept coming across this name Joe Baker, and I have to confess I didn’t know much about him.
“But the more I read about him – this guy that grew up in Motherwell but was chosen to play for England aged 19 while playing in the Scottish League with Hibs – I couldn’t believe a book hadn’t been done about him.
“I approached the family and they were delighted at the prospect of a book. And I was obviously thrilled that they trusted me to write it.”
Joe Baker was born in Liverpool on July 17, 1940. Brother Gerry was born in the USA in 1938.
To avoid the German bombers, their Scottish mother took them ‘home’ to Motherwell from Merseyside when Joe was six weeks old.
After growing up in Lanarkshire Joe signed for Hibs, making his debut aged 17.
Tom was delighted to get a true Scottish football legend involved in his book.
He said: “Denis Law did the introduction, I thought it was essential to get him because he played alongside both Gerry and Joe.
“It was also interesting that he played against Joe at Hampden in 1960. Apparently Joe got lots of boos and calls of get back to England. It was just football banter.
“But Joe had said it was very difficult, as don’t forget he was only 19, he lived 12 miles from the stadium and here he was in front of 130,000 Scots with three lions on his chest.
“It was a bitter pill for him to swallow.
“He described it as ‘the rug being pulled from under his feet’. He had played for Scottish schoolboys.
“But he was still honoured to play for England.”
NEXT WEEK: Brother Gerry’s American dream.
Read more in the August 22 edition of the Midlothian Advertiser.