Hank Bauer, a hard-hitting, hard-nosed outfielder for the New York Yankees and former major league manager who made his home in the Kansas City area, died today after a battle with cancer.
He was 84.
Bauer played on nine pennant winners and seven World Series champions with the New York Yankees during 1948 through 1959. He also played two seasons with the Kansas City Athletics before turning to managing with the A's in both Kansas City (1962-63) and Oakland (1969) and with the Baltimore Orioles (1964-68).
In Baltimore, he was named American League Manager of the Year in 1964 and 1966. His 1966 Orioles swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. In eight years as a major-league manager, he compiled a 594-534 won-lost record.
In 1993, Bauer was diagnosed with throat cancer, and his epiglottis, a cartilage flap covering the vocal chords, was removed.
Bauer, an American League All-Star during 1952-54 ("until Al Kaline came along," he said in a 1995 interview), finished his 14 major-league seasons with a .277 batting average. He reached a peak of .320 in 1950, and also batted .304 in 1953. He also had one of baseball’s best throwing arms.
Always dangerous in the clutch, Bauer helped the Yanks whip Milwaukee in the 1958 World Series by going 10 for 31 with four homers, eight RBIs and six runs. He set a record by hitting in 17 straight Series game in 1956, 1957 and 1958.
"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."
The friendships formed by the Yankees of the 1950s continued long after their playing careers, and one of Bauer's closest friends was Mickey Mantle, who died on Aug. 13, 1995. Bauer was a pallbearer at Mantle's funeral.
A native of East St. Louis, Ill., Bauer moved to the Kansas City area in 1949 after playing with the Blues of the American Association in 1947 and 1948. Not only did Bauer star as the Blues' right fielder, but he married Charlene Friede, the club's office secretary. She died in July 1999.
After his time as a player and manager, Bauer was a scout for the Yankees for several years, attending nearly every game at Royals Stadium. In 1987 he became a special assignment scout with the Royals.
In the 1985 playoffs and World Series he dictated a series of analysis stories for The Star and in 1988 he was featured on a baseball call-in talk show on nationwide radio.
For years Bauer owned and operated a liquor store in Prairie Village. He sold it in 1978. An avid hunter and fisherman, Bauer said he gave up golf early. "I lost interest in it," Bauer said. "Only time I ever hit to right field in my life was on that golf course."
Published in Kansas City Star on Feb. 9, 2007.