Albuquerque’s Toby Smith discusses and autographs his book “Bush League Boys” at noon Thursday, Feb. 19 at the UNM Bookstore, main campus (across from the Frontier restaurant) and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22 at Page One Bookstore, 5850 Eubank NE in the Mountain Run Shopping Center.

By David Steinberg

The genesis of Toby Smith’s book “Bush League Boys” was an accidental conversation he had with journalist Gary Herron a few years ago.

They saw each other at the old Page One bookstore where Herron, Smith said, was pushing his book, “Duke City Diamonds,” which is about Albuquerque baseball.

“We chatted. I asked him about the publisher of his book. I was going to do a book on tennis, which I knew something about and had a stronger interest in,” Smith said in an interview.

What followed was an email from Herron to Smith saying that  UNM Press director John Byram was interested in a book about record-setting minor league slugger Joe Bauman. In only 138 games, Bauman hit 72 home runs for a Roswell team in 1954.

Smith said he was the last person to interview Bauman and remembered another player from the post-war era, Bob Crues, who in 1948 had a remarkable 254 runs batted in for the Amarillo Gold Sox.

Smith didn’t think there was enough information on Bauman, or even Bauman and Crues, for a book.

Still, Smith to sniff around. He found out about lower minor leagues in Texas and New Mexico, mostly on the east side of the state in the 1940s and ’50s. He discovered a pile of stories about the leagues, the players, the fans, the fields, race relations, beanings (one fatal), the sportswriters who covered the games.

Smith proposed that expanded idea for a book to Byram, a baseball fan.

“I sold it, and I was off and running,” Smith said.

UNM Press published Smith’s book last fall. The subtitle is “The Postwar Legends of Baseball in the American Southwest.”