Tuesday 10th May 1960
Erwin George “Cannonball” Baker (78), a motorcycle and automobile racing driver and organizer in the first half of the 20th century, died of a heart attack at Community Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. Baker set 143 driving records from the 1910s through the 1930s. His first was set in 1914, riding coast to coast on an Indian motorcycle in 11 days. He normally rode to sponsor manufacturers, guaranteeing them “no record, no money”. In 1915, Baker drove from Los Angeles to New York City in 11 days, 7 hours and fifteen minutes in a Stutz Bearcat, and the following year drove a Cadillac 8 roadster from Los Angeles to Times Square in seven days, eleven hours and fifty-two minutes while accompanied by an Indianapolis newspaper reporter. In 1924 he made his first midwinter transcontinental run in a stock Gardner sedan at a time of 4 days, 14 hours and 15 minutes. He was so impressed by the car, that he purchased one thereafter. In 1926 he drove a loaded two-ton truck from New York to San Francisco in a record five days, seventeen hours and thirty minutes, and in 1928, he beat the 20th Century Limited train from New York to Chicago. Also in 1928, he competed in the Mount Washington Hillclimb Auto Race, and set a record time of 14:49.6 seconds, driving a Franklin. His best-remembered drive was a 1933 New York City to Los Angeles trek in a Graham-Paige model 57 Blue Streak 8, setting a 53.5 hour record that stood for nearly 40 years. This drive inspired the later Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, better known as the “Cannonball Run”, which itself inspired at least five movies and a television series. In 1941, he drove a new Crosley Covered Wagon across the nation in a troublefree 6,517-mile (10,488 km) run to prove the economy and reliability characteristics of Crosley automobiles. Other record and near-record transcontinental trips were made in Model T Fords, Chrysler Imperials, Marmons, Falcon-Knights and Columbia Tigers, among others.