Former New York Yankees outfielder Hank Bauer was best known for contributing to the team's near-perfect World Series run in the 1950s. But he also had a knack for winning ballgames as a manager.
Bauer, who died at 84 on Friday after a long battle with cancer, won seven championships as a player with the vaunted Yankees. He's also one of only six managers to win both an International League title and a World Series championship.
World War II caused a gap in his playing career (he made his pro debut with Oshkosh of the Wisconsin State League in 1941), but he signed with the Yankees in 1946 after spending 32 months in combat with the U.S. Marines.
Bauer spent most of the next three years in the Minors, playing with Quincy of the Three-I league in 1946 and two seasons with the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. He made his Major League debut in 1948 and stuck with the big club a year later.
While in Kansas City, Bauer was teammates with Ralph Houk, the catcher who eventually took over for Casey Stengel as Yankees' manager in 1961.
The duo became fast friends and Houk fondly recalled their road trip from New York to Kansas City in the car Houk bought after playing on the Yankees' Series-winning team in 1947.
"He got called up at the end of the 1947 season, so we were both there after the World Series," Houk said from his home in Florida. "You didn't [often] have cars back then, but I got one because of the Series and we rode together all night. We were anxious to get home. I'll never forget it."
Houk got married during the 1948 season in Kansas City, and Bauer was his best man.
"We were very close to each other in K.C.," Houk said. "We played baseball and did the things that baseball players did. He was a good friend of mine."
Bauer batted over .300 in each of his three post-war Minor League seasons, culminating in 1948, when he hit .305 with 23 home runs and 100 RBIs to prove he was ready for the Majors.
His playing and managerial careers overlapped briefly in 1961 with the Kansas City A's. Bauer went on to compile a 594-544 record over eight seasons, highlighted by the Baltimore Orioles' stunning four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series.
While Bauer's big-league managerial career concluded with a 80-69 mark for the Oakland A's in 1969, he continued working with young players in the Minor Leagues.
| Doubly successful skippers
Hank Bauer is one of just six managers to win a Governors' Cup and a World Series title, and the only one to win the International League's trophy after the Major League hardware. Here is the complete list:
Governors' Cup: Rochester Red Wings (1939)
World Series: St. Louis Cardinals (1942, 1944)
Governors' Cup: Montreal Royals (1951, 1953)
World Series: Brooklyn Dodgers (1955)
World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers (1959, 1962, 1965)
Governors' Cup: Toronto Maple Leafs (1965-66)
World Series: Oakland A's (1982-83)
Governors' Cup: Rochester Red Wings (1971, 1974)
Governors' Cup: Columbus Clipper (1980)
World Series: Baltimore Orioles (1983)
Governors' Cup: Tidewater Tides (1972)
World Series: Baltimore Orioles (1966)
Governors' Cup: Tidewater Tides (1983)
World Series: New York Mets (1986)
Bauer was at the helm of the first New York Mets' affiliate in Virginia, guiding the Tidewater Tides to pennants in each of their first two seasons at a Triple-A team. The Tides fell to Rochester in the 1971 Governors' Cup Finals before defeating Louisville to capture the title in 1972.
Mike Jorgensen, a slick-fielding first baseman with the Mets, Expos, Rangers, Braves and Cardinals from 1968-85, played for Bauer in 1971.
"I was excited about that because I grew up a big Yankee fan," recalled Jorgensen, a New Jersey native. "It was thrilling for me to play for him."
Also a former Marine, Jorgensen had heard of Bauer's stern reputation. But he was surprised to discover his manager's softer side.
"He was a tough guy, he wanted everyone to toe the line, but he had a big heart," he said.
Jorgensen spent the entire 1970 season in the Majors as a part-time player with the Mets but was assigned to Tidewater for a little more seasoning to open the 1971 campaign. While there, he batted .342 with 15 homers and 41 RBIs in 65 games.
Bauer got to tell Jorgensen about his promotion to New York.
"He called me down from my hotel room in Louisville and we talked in the lobby," Jorgensen said. "He told me I was going to get the opportunity to play and to not let the aura of the Major Leagues affect me. I think I hit two home runs the first day I got there. ... I enjoyed playing for Hank."