Feature   Know Your Military

Sports Heroes Who Served: Baseball Legend Was a WWII Marine Hero

Sept. 7, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Hank Bauer was a legendary American League right fielder and manager in Major League Baseball. He played with the New York Yankees (1948–1959) and Kansas City Athletics (1960–1961); he batted and threw right-handed. 

A baseball player holds a bat.
Hank Bauer
New York Yankees right fielder Hank Bauer poses for a photo in 1953.
Photo By: Courtesy of Hank Bauer
VIRIN: 530602-O-D0439-001

He served as the manager of the Athletics in both Kansas City, Missouri, (1961–62) and in Oakland, California, (1969), as well as of the Baltimore Orioles (1964–68), guiding the Orioles to the World Series title in 1966, a four-game sweep over the heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers. This was the first World Series title in the franchise's history.

Before the Orioles' World Series title in 1966, Bauer played in seven World Series: 1949-1953, 1956 and 1958. He also was a three-time All-Star, 1952-1954.

Three baseball players pose for a photo in the dugout.
Yankee Trio
From left: New York Yankees Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and Mickey Mantle pose for a photo in 1953.
Photo By: Courtesy New York Yankees
VIRIN: 530602-O-D0439-002

Before his baseball fame, Bauer served in the Marine Corps during World War II from 1942 to 1945.

Just one month after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by Japan, Bauer enlisted.

Following basic training at Mare Island, California, he volunteered to join the elite Marine Raiders. After successfully completing the grueling physical and mental entrance requirements, he was assigned to the 4th Raider Battalion, which in August 1942, deployed to Guadalcanal in the southwest Pacific. He was there until the spring of 1943.

Marines rest in a jungle area.
Battle Break
Marines rest during the Battle of Guadalcanal in the latter half of 1942.
Photo By: Marine Corps photo
VIRIN: 421102-O-D0439-003

After surviving attacks by the Japanese and a bout of malaria, Bauer next participated in the landing on Emirau, in the south eastern portion of the St. Matthias Islands, in March 1944. That was followed by the New Georgia Campaign in June 1944 and the Battle of Guam in July 1944. In the battle for Guam, Bauer was wounded in the back by enemy shrapnel. During that battle, he received a Bronze Star Medal for valor.

Next came the battle for Okinawa in April 1945. By this time, Bauer, a sergeant, led a platoon in battle. Most of his platoon was killed. Bauer and five others made it out alive, but Bauer was wounded in the thigh by enemy artillery fire. He also received a second Bronze Star during the battle.

The wounds he received on Okinawa were severe enough for him to be sent back to the United States to recuperate. Bauer, who wanted to play professional baseball, thought the wounds would end his dream.

A photo on a baseball card shows a baseball player holding a bat.
Baseball Card
New York Yankees right fielder Hank Bauer is pictured on a baseball card in the 1950s.
Photo By: Courtesy of Hank Bauer
VIRIN: 530602-O-D0439-003

Bauer was fortunate in his recovery and went on to become a baseball legend.

His brother, Herman, was not so fortunate. Herman Bauer was killed in action in France while with the 3rd Armored Division on July 12, 1944.

Bauer died in 2007 at age 84.

More Sports Heroes Who Served
sports graphic
Sports Heroes Graphic
Sports Heroes Who Served graphic - with title
Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 200706-D-ZZ999-903