John Baker 1965
It is a worn out
expression but, indeed, timing is everything. If Big John Baker were to look
back on his career with the Steelers, he might wish that he could move it
forward one decade into the 1970s which is more commonly known as the "Decade of
the Steelers." As it was Big John was a defensive stalwart at end for the team
from 1963 - 1967. At 6' 6" tall and 270 pounds he was one of the truly
outstanding performers during a down period in the team's history. Had Big John
played just a few years later he might have been the Steeler player chosen to
throw his jersey to an admiring young fan in the now famous Joe Greene -
Coca-Cola commercial. His mid 1960s battle scarred helmet is a wonderful
representation from a period where spearing, head-butting and an over aggressive
tackling were accepted practices.
The helmet is date stamped 1965 and is a Riddell model "RK-2" (Husky). Although Big John had a large head that required a husky size shell the shape of his head was narrow as evidenced by the customized factory leather inserts that acted like shims on both sides of the suspension webbing. Had Big John played in the 1970s he would have probably been issued a Rawlings helmet which better fit narrow shaped heads such as Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster. A Schutt "JOP" butterfly mount facemask is bolted on to the helmet. Big John also wore a most unusual white plastic two-bar Marietta facemask earlier in his career. The ultra-thin Steelers decal was made out of destructible vinyl and had a tendency to chip off rather than tear as seen in most other decals. This great helmet reflects a truly unforgettable period in pro football history where in the rugged battles of the interior line only the toughest men survived.