The New York Yankee who graced our cover of July 22, 1957, had,
in the words of comedian Jan Murray, "a face like a clenched
fist." It was an apt description, for, grizzled countenance
aside, Hank Bauer played baseball with the taut fury of a
clenched fist. "When Hank came down that base path," Boston Red
Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky once said, "the whole earth trembled."
Bauer was a typical Yankee of the Casey Stengel era, a hard man
who played every game as if it would be his last. An ex-Marine
who had won two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts during 32
months of World War II combat in the South Pacific, Bauer was
keenly aware of his mortality. The war delayed the start of his
14-year major league career until he was 26, but he made the
most of what remained. And he was at his clenched-fist best
under the nerve-jangling pressure of a World Series.
In the 1958 Series, the last time before this fall that the
Braves and Yankees met for the championship, Bauer was a hero.
New York dropped the first two games in Milwaukee, then the
Braves' home, and seemed overmatched by the pitching of Warren
Spahn and Lew Burdette. But when the Series moved to Yankee
Stadium, the old Marine took command, driving home all four runs
in a Game 3 shutout. Spahn won the next day, halting Bauer's
record 17-game World Series hitting streak, but New York swept
the final three games to clinch the title. Bauer had 10 hits in
the Series, four of them homers, and drove in eight runs.
That Series was Bauer's ninth and last as a Yankee, but he
appeared in one more eight years later, when he managed the
Baltimore Orioles to a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles
Dodgers. After finishing his managerial career in 1969, Bauer
spent 11 years operating a liquor store near his home outside
Kansas City before returning to the Yankees as a scout. Nine
years later he left the game for good. "What got me out of
baseball," he says, "were those guys who won't run 90 feet to
October 28, 1996
Bauer is 74 now--"in the eighth inning of life," he says--a
survivor of throat cancer who is content to fish, golf, stay at
home with his wife, Charlene, and watch a little baseball on
television. Still a Yankee at heart, he's pulling for New York
in its long-awaited rematch with the Braves. "I like the
Yankees, though they may have had too many days off," he said
last week. "That never happened when I played." So he's hoping
his old team will show a little of that clenched-fist spirit.