Gerry Baker (right) with his brother Joe in 1960. Image: Scotsman.com
Gerry Baker, the first player to suit up for the USA with top-flight experience in Europe, passed away this past weekend in Wishaw, Lanarkshire at the age of 75.
Though Baker, along with his younger brother Joe — also a footballer — called Scotland home, he played for the USA in the late 1960s due to a now-defunct FIFA rule that only let players suit up for the nation of their birth. Baker was born in New Rochelle, NY in 1938.
After the Bakers moved back overseas to Liverpool, the outbreak of World War II forced the two boys and their mother to move to their parents’ native Scotland. It is there in Motherwell that both sons begun their soccer careers.
At just age 15, Baker was spotted by a Chelsea scout and signed for the London club, though he played just one match for the senior team before returning north to play for Motherwell. Baker continued to struggle for playing time there, but did catch the eye of St. Mirren, for whom Baker played the next three seasons.
In his first match for the new club, Baker scored the winning goal over Motherwell, the team his brother was then playing with. In 1959, Baker won the Scottish Cup with St. Mirren, his first title as a professional. In the first round of the following year’s Scottish Cup, he scored a whopping ten goals in a 15-0 win over Glasgow University – a post-war record in the competition that has held up to this day. All in all, Baker amassed 66 goals in 81 appearances.
Gerry (back row, third from left) in the 1959 St Mirren Scottish Cup-winning team. Courtesy Tom Maxwell.
Following a prolific three-year span with St. Mirren, Baker bounced around, playing for Manchester City (14 goals in 39 appearances) and Hibernian (43 goals in 83 appearances) before joining Ipswich Town. It is there where Baker finally stuck on an English first division squad, but despite scoring 18 goals in his first year with the Blues, Ipswish were relegated to Division 2.
Baker continued to flourish in the second tier, scoring 45 goals in the next three seasons. However, Ipswich didn’t regain top flight status until his fifth and final season with the club, by which time his role there had diminished. Baker moved on to Coventry City, where he played sparingly for three more years. It was while at Coventry that he won his seven caps for the United States, playing in World Cup qualifiers.
Baker with the USA (front row, second from left). Courtesy Tom Maxwell.
After his playing career ended in 1971, Baker worked at the Jaguar car factory in Coventry, residing there with his wife Anne and children Karen and Lorraine for many happy years. Anne passed away last year after a long battle with cancer.