Henry Albert Bauer was a man that lived a rich baseball life, but that could really be said of countless players, managers, executives, etc. More accurately, Hank Bauer's career was both successful and filled with elbow-rubbing from some of the most colorful characters in the modern history of the game.
Hank Bauer played from 1948 through 1961, a favorite of Yankees manager Casey Stengel. Bauer was a Yankee for 12 of his 14 big league seasons, and for all of the productive years. His numbers aren't monstrous, or particularly noteworthy, but he was a solid player for a number of years. His best full season came in 1952, when he hit .293/.355/.463 with 17 homers and 74 RBI. And as a player with New York, he won seven World Series titles -- 1949-53, 1956 and 1958. He was also a member of the AL champion Yankees in 1955 and 1957. He was a constant member of arguably the greatest franchise run in baseball history.
From 1956 through 1958, Bauer had a 17-game hitting streak in the World Series. From 1952-54, he started in the All-Star game. He made a phenomenal, Series-saving catch in 1951 against the Giants. He became very good friends with Mickey Mantle, and served as a pallbearer at Mantle's funeral in 1995.
Bauer's playing career was effectively over after the 1959 season, and he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics with Don Larsen, Norm Siebern and Marv Thornberry in exchange for Joe DaMaestri, Kent Hadley and Roger Maris, the 1960 and 1961 American League Most Valuable Player.
Bauer played two more years for the A's, but only 95 games in '60 and 43 in '61, before he retired. In '61, he did have one final great playing moment at Yankee Stadium, hitting an inside-the-park home run that flew past Mickey Mantle and into the center field monuments.
It was also 1961 that saw Hank Bauer move to the manager's seat, when pioneering friendly nutcase Charlie Finley gave Bauer the job on June 19, nine days after that inside-the-park home run. Bauer replaced Joe Gordon, with the A's at 26-33. The team finished the year with Bauer leading them to an awful 35-67 record, and the A's finished in ninth place. It was Finley's first, but not last, managerial switch.
Working as just the manager in '62, Bauer's Athletics went 72-90, another ninth-place finish. Bauer wasn't brought back for the '63 season, instead landing as a coach with the Baltimore Orioles. Before the 1964 season (November 19, 1963, to be exact), he was promoted to manager to replace Billy Hitchcock, who had gone 86-76 with the Birds in '63.
Bauer's run as manager of the Orioles is, of course, one of the keys to why the team was perhaps the best in all of major organized sports for many years. His first two teams turned in third-place finishes, going 97-65 and 94-68. And then came the 1966 Baltimore Orioles.
Bauer's squad, led by MVP Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell at the plate, and supported by a strong bullpen (Stu Miller, Eddie Fisher, Moe Drabowsky), won the American League at 97-63, a nine-game advantage of the second-place Minnesota Twins.
It was a team that had two huge hitters in Frank and Boog, one of Brooks' best offensive seasons, good defense, good relievers, and good role players like Curt Blefary, Paul Blair and Russ Snyder. And, of course, a young rotation featuring a 20-year old Jim Palmer and a 23-year old Dave McNally. 28-year old Steve Barber was the team's ace when healthy, but missed a large portion of the season. They could also field the ball a little bit, with Brooks and Luis Aparicio on the left side of the infield, among others elsewhere on the diamond.
Those Orioles, of course, scored an upset sweep of the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, the first World Series win in Baltimore Orioles history. The 1967 Orioles were a huge disappointment, going 76-85 and finishing in seventh place. After a 43-37 start in 1968, Bauer was replaced by Earl Weaver, and the rest is history.
Bauer returned to the Athletics, now in Oakland, for the 1969 season. He managed the A's to an 80-69 start, and was then fired and replaced by John McNamara. It was the second time in two years that Hank Bauer had been fired at the helm of a team that was in second place.
Beyond baseball, Bauer was a United States Marine, enlisting shortly after Pearl Harbor and serving four years. In Okinawa, he was wounded, catching shrapnel in his thigh. He earned two Bronze Stars, as well as two Purple Hearts.
Hank Bauer, born in East St. Louis, Illinois, on July 31, 1922 -- the youngest of nine children, his father an Austrian immigrant -- died on February 9, 2007, in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, from cancer.
"Hank crawled on top of the Yankee dugout and searched the stands, looking for a fan who was shouting racial slurs at Elston Howard. When asked about the incident, Bauer explained simply, 'Ellie's my friend.'" -- Art Ditmar
"Hank lost four prime years from his playing career due to his Marine service. This is heavy duty when you figure such a career is usually over when a player reaches his mid-thirties. This is something that does not bother Hank. 'I guess I knew too many great young guys who lost everything out there to worry about my losing part of a baseball career,' he says." -- Henry Berry
"I am truly heartbroken. Hank was a wonderful teammate and friend for so long. Nobody was more dedicated and proud to be a Yankee, he gave you everything he had." -- Yogi Berra
"He played on some of the greatest teams that ever played and brought the Orioles their first World Series title. That's saying something. He was a players' manager. He didn't overcomplicate things. ... He was my first manager in the major leagues. He gave me my first opportunity (in 1965) when he could have kept other people. I was lucky; he was a Jim Palmer fan. You can't get in the Hall of Fame without your first chance." -- Jim Palmer
"Hank Bauer is an emblem of a generation that helped shape the landscape of our country. He was a natural leader and a teammate in every sense of the word, and his contributions went well beyond the baseball field. His service to the Yankees, his country, and his family shows why I have been so privileged to call him a friend." -- George Steinbrenner
"We went in with 64 and six of us came out." -- Hank Bauer, recalling the day he was wounded in Okinawa