Manager `was like a father'

Former Marine, 84, guided O's to first title

Hank Bauer

1922 - 2007

February 10, 2007|By MIKE KLINGAMAN | MIKE KLINGAMAN,SUN REPORTER

On Aug. 1, 1966, the Orioles led the American League by a whopping 13 games and the media proclaimed manager Hank Bauer a genius.

Baloney, said Bauer, a gnarly ex-leatherneck:

"I just crank [the team] up and turn 'em loose," he said.

Seven weeks later, Baltimore clinched the pennant and his players threw Bauer, fully clothed, into the clubhouse shower.

Three weeks after that, the Orioles were the champions of baseball.

Bauer may have dismissed his part in Baltimore's first World Series celebration, but his players paid homage to their former skipper, who died yesterday of cancer in Shawnee Mission, Kan., where he lived. Bauer was 84.

"Hank always said he could have written that lineup backwards or sideways and we'd still have won," said first baseman Boog Powell, a slugger on the '66 team. "But, you know what? We finished only two games out in 1964 - his first year as manager - and damn near pulled [a pennant] off.

"Hank wasn't big on team meetings or rules. He just expected you to act like a man, nothing less."

Bauer managed the Orioles from 1964 to 1968, compiling a 407-318 record. The Orioles won 97 games in 1964 and another 97 in 1966, the year they swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

A former Marine, Bauer looked tough but "had a face like the muzzle of an M-1 rifle, with a marshmallow heart," said Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson.

"Hank gave everyone the idea he was a tough son of a gun, but he really wasn't," said Andy Etchebarren, the Orioles' rookie catcher in 1966. "He was like a father to us younger players."

That season, at Bauer's insistence, the Orioles started three youngsters up the middle - the others were rookie second baseman Davey Johnson and second-year center fielder Paul Blair - a strategy that was questioned by big league gurus.

"He [Bauer] was like a daddy to me," Blair said. "Hank wore No. 42, so they called me 42 1/2 because I was always hanging around him."

Another rookie who benefited from Bauer's touch that year was pitcher Eddie Watt.

"Hank never expected more than I could deliver," Watt said yesterday. "He wasn't the great tactician that some managers profess to be today. But he was very much a players' manager, and one of the few managers of his era who could tolerate young players.

"He knew young people make mistakes, and Hank just took that at face value."

Laziness drew Bauer's ire. Once, on a sacrifice fly, Earl Robinson jogged home from third base.

"Next day, Earl was on a plane to [Triple-A] Rochester," Blair said.

Play for Bauer and you gave your all, Etchebarren said.

"We played a doubleheader in Washington on a hot, humid day," he said. "After I caught the first game, Hank came out and asked, `Are you OK?' I said yes.

" `Good,' said Hank. `Go take a cold shower so you can catch the second game.'

"I lost 18 pounds that day," Etchebarren said.

What else did Bauer detest? Sloppy dress.

"When he came to the Orioles, he made us carry ourselves like baseball players and act like them," Powell said. "We had to wear a coat and tie all the time on the road, no exceptions.

"I remember once in Milwaukee the clubhouse was steaming and I was soaking wet, so I put my coat on without the tie.

"Hank looked at me and said, `Put the tie on.'

"His face told the story of Iwo Jima and World War II, so I did it," Powell said.

Before he managed, Bauer played 14 seasons as an outfielder for the New York Yankees and Kansas City Athletics between 1948 and 1961. He played on seven Yankees championship teams and set a record by hitting safely in 17 straight World Series games.

He made three All-Star teams despite usually sharing time in New York manager Casey Stengel's complex array of platoons.

As a manager, however, Bauer proved to be "a very uncomplicated guy," said Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, who pitched for him. "Baseball isn't rocket science, and Hank didn't take it that way."

One Bauer dictum: Pitchers shall not throw high fastballs. A right-hander named Dave Leonhard once threw two of them in a row against the Yankees. Both balls landed in the bleachers.

Incensed, Bauer strode to the mound to assail Leonhard, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.

"We called Hank `tomato face' when he got that mad," Palmer said. "He just stood there, perspiring and staring at Leonhard.

"Finally, Hank said, `Johns Hopkins, my -,' and walked back to the dugout. That pretty much summarized Hank Bauer."

Last October, at a 40-year reunion for the 1966 Orioles sponsored by the Babe Ruth Museum, Bauer sat for hours at the bar with several of his players and kibitzed about the old days.

"He wore a suit, looked great and never told anybody he was sick," Etchebarren said. "Eventually, the other guys - Powell, Luis Aparicio, Eddie Fisher and others - left until only Hank and I were there."

It was then that they realized nobody had paid the $450 bar bill, so the two men split it and said their good-byes.

"Hank will always be in my heart," Etchebarren said.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.