Racing into history

Garfield Park residents to raise funds for historical marker to memorialize “Cannon Ball” Baker, a national record-setter in auto sports

*Submitted photo

Erwin George “Cannon Ball” Baker set records for riding his Indian motorcycle 3,379 miles in 1914, on unpaved roads and even railroad tracks, racing from San Diego to New York City in 11 days, 11 hours and 11 minutes.

In 1909 he has won one of the first motorcycle races, a 10-mile event on the newly-constructed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The nationally-known American Hoosier chose to settle down in the Garfield Park neighborhood when he built his home on E. Garfield Drive in 1925. Born 1882, he passed away in 1960. The Garfield Park Neighbors Association has been approved by the Indiana Historical Bureau to install a memorial marker for Cannon Ball, with an unveiling celebration in the fall.

“He moved the small house that was here because he wanted this corner spot,” said Stan Kiwor, whose girlfriend now resides in the house. Kiwor has been researching Cannon Ball for the past year, working to obtain approval for the marker. “He loved the park here, the fountains, the conservatory. Both side of the house, south and west, they face the park… He’s a Hoosier, a forgotten hero, who is involved in the race track and early years of automotive production. We thought it was amazing that he chose, as a Hoosier, to make roots and settle down here.”

A fundraiser for the marker will be held April 22, 1 – 4 p.m. at Cannon Ball Brewing Company, 1702 Bellefontaine St., Indianapolis. Cost is $25 per person; two drink tickets will be provided. Food is available for purchase. Cannon Ball Baker vintage T-shirts will be available from $10 to $13. A bicycle ride originating from Garfield Park to Cannon Ball Brewery along the Cultural rail will begin at noon. Event details can be found on eventbrite.com.

After setting that 1914 record on his motorcycle, Cannon Ball later ventured in to the automobile world. In 1916, he rode a Stutz Bearcat from Sandiego to New York in 7 days, 11 hours and 53 minutes. He went on to drive in the Indianapolis 500, and set more records for driving coast to coast.

Cannon Ball was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1989 and Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998. He was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery. Kiwor said many motorcycle enthusiasts make the trip there to honor his memory. More of his background can be found at crownhillhf.org/docs/CannonBallBaker.pdf.