Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bauer Mourned



February 10, 2007 -- 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 Yankees dynasty of the 1950s, died yesterday. He was 84.

Bauer died of cancer in Shawnee Mission, Kan., said the Baltimore Orioles. Bauer managed the 1966 Orioles to their first World Series title.

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.

"Hank Bauer is an emblem of a generation that helped shape the landscape of our country," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement. "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."

Surrounded by sluggers Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, Bauer was a major ingredient in the Yankees' success during his years in New York from 1948-59.

"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 in 1961-62. He also managed Baltimore from 1964-68 and the Athletics again in Oakland in 1969.

"He played on some of the greatest teams that ever played and brought the Orioles their first World Series title," Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer said. "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."

Bauer was voted The Associated Press AL Manager of the Year in 1964 and 1966, when his Orioles swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. It was the only time he reached the Series as a manager, but he was a frequent participant in the postseason with the Yankees.

Bauer's World Series hitting streak stretched from 1956-58 when the Yankees dynasty was at its peak.

"Oh, it was a joy," he said in a 1998 interview. "I was there 11 years and we won nine pennants. And we could have very easily won 10 in a row, because in 1954 we won more games than we ever did. We won 103."

Cleveland won 111 that year, a rare interruption in the Yankees dynasty that stretched from 1949-64.

Bauer enlisted in the Marines shortly after Pearl Harbor and saw action 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.

Bauer was wounded at Okinawa, hit in the left thigh by shrapnel in his 53rd day on the island.

"We went in with 64 and six of us came out," Bauer said.

After he was discharged, Bauer signed with the Yankees' minor-league affiliate at Kansas City, and after two .300 seasons there moved to New York in 1948. A year later, Casey Stengel became the manager and Bauer moved into the lineup as the Yankees began their run.

Bauer batted .320 in his second full season and became a fixture in the Yankees outfield alongside Mantle. The two outfielders became close friends.

Equipped with a strong arm, Bauer was a dead-pull fastball hitter, a disadvantage at Yankee Stadium with its spacious left field. He once said that if he hit a ball to right field, it was an accident.

Bauer batted .277 with 164 homers and 703 RBIs. 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 Milwaukee Braves in seven games.

In 1959, after the Yankees finished behind the Chicago White Sox, Bauer was part of a seven-player trade with Kansas City that delivered Roger Maris to New York.

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