Joe Willis Bauman (April 16, 1922 - September 20, 2005) was a semi-professional baseball player. Originally from Welch, Oklahoma, he played in a number of low minor leagues throughout the Southwest in the 1940s and 50s. In 1952 he signed with the Roswell Rockets of Roswell, New Mexico. In his first year in the Longhorn League, he won the Triple Crown with stats of .375/50/157. In 1953, he led the league in walks, runs, and home runs, with 53 of the latter.
In 1954 he became something of a national celebrity when he became the first player in the history of the game at any level to hit more than 70 home runs in one season, knocking in 72. No player in the world would join him at the 70 home run plateau until Mark McGwire hit 70 in 1998, and he held the world record for single-season home runs until Barry Bonds hit his 73rd and final home run in 2001. Bonds's 72nd home run came in the 160th game of the season; Bauman's came in the final game of the Longhorn League's 138-game year.
While he was still playing, Bauman purchased a Texaco gas station in Roswell and used it as his primary source of income even while he continued to wear the uniform. After his retirement in 1956, he continued to operate that station full-time and lived in Roswell for the rest of his life. His final baseball stats were .337/337/1057.
Joe Bauman in "The Star and the Rockets"
On what should have been a quiet winter's night in January 1954, Joe Bauman was interrupted from watching Milton Berle on TV to gas up an 88 Oldsmobile. Three very strange men were in the car. Bauman, who'd finished reading a science fiction story by Edgar Pangborn prior to their arrival, was somewhat disturbed by the men. The driver, who proved to be an extraterrestrial, realized that Bauman was, like himself, a man of the star (Texaco) and of the rockets (the team). He behaved as though he were giving Bauman some sort of supernatural gift.
Bauman's memory of that night faded during his record-breaking 1954 season. However, at the final double-header of the season, when Bauman hit his 70th, 71st, and 72nd home runs to take sole possession of the world record for single-season round-trippers, the extraterrestrials were present once again.
Bauman always remembered his "fans." He never spoke of them during the rest of his life in Roswell, and he never laughed at flying saucer jokes, even after the rest of Roswell embraced their extraterrestrial reputation.