Hank Bauer – USMC Hero & Yankee All-Star

Baltimore Orioles manager Hank Bauer (42) in USMC uniform, viewing himself in team uniform over his shoulder during photo shoot. Composite. Bauer earned 11 campaign ribbons, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts during his time with the Marines.
Baltimore, MD 8/13/1964
CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

After surviving some of the most intense fighting in the Pacific and earning a number of decorations, Bauer went on to achieve massive success on the baseball field in the decades after the war.

Bauer was born in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1922. He was the youngest child of an Austrian immigrant family, and had eight older siblings. His father lost his leg in an aluminum mill accident, and the family found themselves in a situation of such dire poverty that Hank and his siblings had to wear old feed sacks as clothes.

Far from stewing in misery and despair about his circumstances growing up, however, Bauer was determined to work his way out of poverty and make a success of his life. From an early age it became obvious that he was a gifted athlete, and he excelled at both baseball and basketball.

After graduating from school in 1941, he took a job repairing furnaces at a beer-bottling plant. His brother, also a talented baseball player who had gotten into the Minor League, was able to get Hank a professional tryout. His tryout went well, and Hank was offered a contract with the Oshkosh Giants.

Just when it seemed that Hank was about to step into the professional baseball career he had always dreamed of, though, something happened that would change his life, and the lives of many other Americans: the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Okinawa

A month after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Bauer enlisted in the Marine Corps and initially served with the 4th Raider Battalion. Pretty much as soon as he arrived in the South Pacific, he contracted malaria.

This was not going to be the first time he contracted the disease – he would end up contracting malaria another twenty-three times. Just as he had dealt with any other hardships life had previously thrown his way, he simply gritted his teeth and fought through it without a word of complaint.

His first taste of battle came in early 1943, when he reached the vicinity of Guadalcanal, where a large-scale battle between Allied Forces and the Japanese had been raging since late 1942. He and his fellow Marines had to fight in the dense jungle on the islands of New Georgia northwest of Guadalcanal, a campaign Bauer called “indescribable – the worst [place he had] ever seen.”

Hank Bauer (center) w/ Yogi Berra & Mickey Mantle

After this, the Raider regiments were absorbed into regular Marine units, and Bauer served with the 2nd Battalion 4th Marines, part of the 6th Marine Division. He fought on the islands of Emirau in Papua New Guinea, and then on Guam, where he received his first wound after being hit with shrapnel.

While he was decorated with the Purple Heart for his injuries, he would end up keeping another souvenir of this battle for many years: some pieces of shrapnel stayed in his body, and would end up being picked out of his back by his Yankee teammates in locker rooms many years later.

After Guam Bauer, who was now a sergeant, and his Marines joined the Battle of Okinawa, which would turn out to be the bloodiest and one of the most ferocious battles of the entire Pacific theater of war. Bauer commanded a platoon of sixty-four Marines, of which only six men – including Bauer – survived the intense fighting.

Bauer fought on for fifty-three days before he was wounded by shrapnel once again. This time it was serious enough to result in his being sent back to the U.S. to recover from his injuries.

While he was recuperating stateside, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus forcing the Japanese to surrender. When Bauer had healed and was sent back to his unit, he spent the remainder of his military service on occupation duty in Japan. He ended up being decorated with the Navy Commendation Medal, two Purple Hearts, and two Bronze Stars.

Owing to his war wounds, Bauer didn’t really think that he stood much chance of resuming his baseball career, but, as he had done with everything in his life, he gave it a shot anyway. A Yankees scout remembered Bauer from before the war, and signed him to the Quincy Gems, the Yankees’ farm team, in 1946. With his talent and determination, Bauer worked his way up.

In 1948 he was called up to the Majors – and the rest was history. Bauer ended up being named an all-star three times, and finished his Major League career with a batting average of .277. He once had a seventeen game hitting streak.

Even when he quit playing, he moved on to coaching and managing. He ended up as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles, which he led to a World Series championship in 1966.

Hank Bauer passed away in 2007 at the age of eighty-four, and will not only be remembered for his success as a baseball player and manager, but also for the grit, valor and determination he showed as a Marine during the Second World War.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Elvin Bell – Oakland, CA; US Army, WWII & Korea

Philip DiStanislao – Bronx, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII

Mildred Grunder-Blackwell – Gary, IN; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Wallace Horton – Montgomer, AL; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Carmelo  Ieraci – ITA; US Army, Korea

Ed Keeylocko – Cowtown Keeylocko, AZ; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Sgt. (Ret. 23 y.)

William Masters – Atlanta, GA; US Navy, WWII

Paul ‘Duke’ Richard – Southbridge, MA; US Army, Army Digest Magazine, photographer/writer

Paul Sweeny – Upland, PA; US Navy, WWII, communications, Minesweeper USS Pheasant

Frances Temm – Whangarei, NZ; NZ Army # 36371, WWII, Sgt.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on January 31, 2019, in Home Front, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 136 Comments.

  1. It is wonderful that the coach gave him that chance, and I know he was happy he did! Such a hero in the military, too!

    I am writing a poem about Cavalry Scouts on Hubpages, and will have it completed soon. I am also going to make Chocolate Chip cookies for the Fire Station.

    Thank you for this article! Heroes Rock!

    Like

  2. I remember the 66 Orioles but never knew Bauer’s military story. Truly astounding.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Been trying to find my Hank Bauer baseball card that I found in a secondhand store a few years back. I wanted to share it with a ping-back, but I’ve misplaced it and am getting a little worried and a lot frustrated. Damn!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s amazing the hidden stories of so many people who sacrificed careers, families and their own lives for the benefit of a grateful nation. I hope we remain grateful and supportive. Wonderful sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An interesting, well-written story, G. I enjoyed going back in time to Bauer’s WW II history. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  6. In 1872 ,the baseball was introduced to Japan by An American teacher who battled in the American Civil War.
    His name is Horace Wilson, 10 Feb,1843〜4 March, 1927(State of Maine)☺️🌸🌸🇯🇵🇺🇸👍

    http://www.baseball-museum.or.jp/baseball_hallo/detail/detail_148.html

    in English↓
    http://english.baseball-museum.or.jp/index.html

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another great story. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What an unexpected and extraordinary story, GP. The portrait is really cool too. Thanks for shining a spotlight on this. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Some people seem to be given their one life and then have the determination not to waste a single minute of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a wonderful tribute to an inspiring man!
    I love how in those days a lot of soldiers when on to interesting careers…even to things like sports, acting, singing, etc. They had such good character, experience, strength, heart, etc. Today so many of the young men in sports, acting, music haven’t really lived life before they become famous/wealthy. 😦 And with some the fame and wealth leads to their downfall. 😦
    HUGS!!! 🙂
    PS…Everyone needs a hand-holdin’-friend when it’s shot time! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve never been what you’d call a baseball fan, but I have known about Hank Bauer as a ball player. This part of his story was new, and I’ve sent it on to a couple of real baseball fans. At least one of them didn’t know a bit about this history; I haven’t heard from the other.

    The malaria business is interesting. I had malaria a couple of times when I was in Liberia. We had drugs to prevent and treat the disease, though, and I wondered whether the troops did. I found an interesting history that included these tidbits:

    1942: Japanese armies overran the Dutch cinchona plantations on Java, cutting off the supply of quinine and leaving the Allies with no source for antimalarial drugs.

    1943: American scientists quickly devised a manufacturing process for mepacrine, and the drug was given as a treatment and as a prophylactic under the name Atabrine. Meanwhile, the Allies, especially the Americans, launched the largest antimalarial drug discovery and development program the world had seen. By 1945, several new antimalarial drugs had been introduced, including chloroquine and proguanil. Chloroquine went on to assume a role both in prophylaxis for travelers and as a treatment drug for endemic areas.

    In other words, effective drugs weren’t developed and widely available until after WWII. Before that time, quinine was often used. There was a reason so many people in novels about the tropics are depicted with their vodka and tonic: the tonic water contained quinine!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting. I think many of Mr. Bauer’s bouts with the disease were relapses caused by the parasite originally causing him to contract it. The soldiers did have Atabrine, but since it turned the skin yellow, many refrained from taking it. Thank you for adding to the post, it is very interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What determination! My family has always been baseball fans so it’s always good to hear how struggles and determination can overcome many obstacles.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What an awesome post, Thanks for sharing GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi. I didn’t know about Hank’s military career. But I remember him well as a ball player on the Yankees. He was a fine player. See you —

    Neil Scheinin

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for another great piece of information, GP! Have a nice rest of the week, and hopefully you are not in a state with this horrible winter. Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I love these “tough as nails” stories. I can only imagine what it was like to have shrapnel working its way out of his back, and teammates removing it for him.

    My father contracted malria during the war, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I pictured that too. My father’s fellow troopers got his out when it happened, but I have a feeling they were smaller pieces by the way he talked. I think most had a touch of malaria in some way, even if they took the Atabrine. I saw my own father go through a malaria relapse and I know he took the meds.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I knew he was a war hero, but never knew he was a war HERO. Gosh I remember him as a hard-nosed baseball player, again, one of my favorites. on the Yankees. No ego, no playboy reputation. On almost any other team but those Yankees, he would have been the star.

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha, yes it is hard to be a star when you play for the Yankees. But I’m a Red Sox fan, so I’d best hold my tongue! 🙂

      Like

      • When the man commented on players that sacrificed good years of their career serving their country and mentioned DiMaggio and neglected to mention Teddy Baseball, Ted Williams, the greatest hitter of all times and who was a fighter pilot in WWII and again in the Korean Conflict, both times at the heightt of his career, I wanted to scream. As a Red Sox fan you should have. But maybe you are too young to have followed his career as I did.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I argue about enough stuff around Blogsville, Don. And, I visited the Ted Williams Museum at Tropicana Field last September too!! But you’re right, Ted, our 19-time All-Star should have been mentioned. Born 4 years after my own father, he was leaving baseball as I was getting interested in it – plus – I was the only Red Sox fan in the house! lol

          Liked by 1 person

  18. Great post. A real American hero! Several American athletes have left pro sports to serve their country. They are real heroes and role models.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What an inspirational story. It’s amazing how thinking you can works.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Well they certainly don’t make sports stars like they used to! Good to read about his successful baseball career after the war. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Great story on so many levels. I know a little about Bauer’s birthplace city–worked there for 16 years. In its heyday, was a hard, gritty, industrial town with an Alcoa foundry.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. As a young kid I was a Yankees fanatic. I had heard that Hank Bauer had served in WWII, along with other stars such as Warren Spahn, Ted Williams, and many others. Then I learned he was a Marine, which instantly made us “brothers.” The amazing thing is that he served with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines–the same unit I served in as a rifleman during Vietnam. Thanks for posting this about a true American hero of mine!
    –Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Nice job, GP. Your blog is always well done, and inspirational.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Amazing man. If you hadn’t written about him, I would have never known about him. Thanks GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. A special man among many.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. What a great story, GP. Successful people seem to carry that trait no matter what they do. Hank was a hero no doubt. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. What an amazing man! My sons are both die-hard Yankee fans. Wait till I tell them about Hank Bauer. They are always shocked when I said something about sport people because they know I know nothing about the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. What an unbelievable story! Wow. My admiration is high. I wonder what it’s like to have Malaria? Not once but 23 times. Good grief.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. thank you for showcasing another great hero.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I really enjoyed reading this, GP. Thanks for introducing us to such an amazing man.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. I remember Hank Bauer—more as a manager than a player (I don’t think I knew anything about baseball until 1959 or 1960. I definitely recall 1961.) I never knew about his heroic service. Malaria 23 times! Yikes! Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Wonderful story telling. Again and often forgotten piece of history.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Such an incredible story. He truly had a tough as nails spirit to have contracted malaria 23 times and still was able to pursue both his military and baseball careers. When you put your mind to it anything can be achieved.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. what an amazing man, a hero and a role model in so many ways

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Amazing history, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. You don’t need to fly to be a superhero, he sounds a great chap.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. I wish I’d have done half as much in my 84 years as Hank did in his.
    .He was some man that bloke, I’d love to have met him

    Liked by 1 person

  38. An uplifting story, GP, should be recommended reading for Little League players and parents.

    Liked by 2 people

  39. Nice piece

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    Like

  40. I am so happy that you posted this. Few people today, would know of the great sacrifices many ball players made during the war. Many players like Joe DiMaggio lost the best years of the playing career to defend our country. IN faxct, during World War II, the major leagues were a shell of itself, because so many of its best ball players were overseas fighting.

    Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 5 people

  41. You’re a good friend.

    Like

  42. Thank you for this. He was quite a guy!!

    Like

  1. Pingback: Where the Hell is My Hank Bauer? | Eagle Canyon Flyer

  2. Pingback: FEATURED BLOGGER REPORT: Hank Bauer – USMC Hero & Yankee All-Star By Pacific Paratrooper #AceHistory Desk reports | ' Ace Worldwide History '

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