Hank Bauer, the hard-nosed ex-Marine who returned to baseball after being wounded during World War II and went on to become a cornerstone of the New York Yankees dynasty of the 1950s, died Friday [February 9, 2007]. He was 84.
Bauer died of cancer in Shawnee Mission, Kan., the Baltimore Orioles said. Bauer managed the 1966 Orioles to their first World Series title, a four-game sweep of the Dodgers.
A three-time All-Star outfielder, Bauer played on Yankees teams that won nine American League pennants and seven World Series in 10 years. He set the Series record with a 17-game hitting streak, a mark that still stands, starting in 1956 against the Brooklyn Dodgers and continuing in 1957 and ’58 against the Milwaukee Braves.
Surrounded by such sluggers as Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, Bauer was a major ingredient in the Yankees’ success during his years in New York from 1948 to 1959.
“I am truly heartbroken,” Berra said in a statement issued by the Yankees. “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.”
Bauer played his last two seasons with the Kansas City Athletics, a team he managed from 1961 to 1962. He also managed Baltimore from 1964 to 1968 and the Athletics again in Oakland in 1969.
Bauer was voted the Associated Press American League Manager of the Year in 1964 and 1966, the only year he reached the Series as a manager.
A native of East St. Louis, Ill., Bauer was the youngest of nine children. He enlisted in the Marines shortly after Pearl Harbor and fought in a number of battles in the Pacific, including Okinawa and Guadalcanal, according to Hall of Fame archives. He earned two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.
While on Okinawa, Bauer was hit in the left thigh by shrapnel. “We went in with 64, and six of us came out,” he said.
Bauer batted .277 with 164 homers and 703 RBIs during his 14-year career. It was in the World Series that he excelled, from a Series-ending catch at his knees against the New York Giants in 1951 to his final Series appearance in 1958, when he hit .323 with four homers and eight RBIs as the Yankees beat the Braves in seven games.
“Maybe I bore down a lot more in the Series,” Bauer said. “I had my luck. I had my good days and bad ones. I played for the right organization.”
In 1959, Bauer was part of a seven-player trade with Kansas City that delivered a young Roger Maris to New York. Two years later, Maris set a season record with 61 homers, a mark that stood until 1998.
Bauer kept his Marine Corps crew cut through his baseball career and beyond. After he retired, he returned to the Kansas City area, where he scouted for the Yankees and the Royals.