After Philly, before Oakland, Finley, Bauer and the A’s

Topeka Daily Capital
June 28, 1961

WASHINGTON – When the Kansas City A’s last played here, about three weeks ago, one of the things I heard while visiting with them was that owner Charles O. Finley had wanted to release Hank Bauer before the season opened.

They say that the loudest protests came from Joe Gordon, then the manager. He said Bauer not only was a good ballplayer, but also was a good influence on the younger players and was popular with Kansas City fans.

They say, too, that general manager Frank Lane agreed with Gordon and the two of them combined to save Bauer’s job.

Gordon and Bauer appeared to be the best of friends. They were together here a lot, at least. So, when Finley fired Gordon and named Bauer manager, Gordon probably meant it when he said, “I’m glad Hank got the job.” The first time I ever saw Finley was after the A’s had won a game from the Washington Senators. He looked like he had played the game. More than that, he looked like he had slid into third base once too often.

He had on an A’s cap. His clothing was rumpled. He was hoarse and red-faced. I was with Merle Harmon and Finley yelled, as best he could:

“What did I tell you when we started this road trip? You know what I told you. I told you we’d come home in 4th place, and we’re going to do it. Say that on the radio, and you can tell ‘em I said it.” Harmon, the ace broadcaster, promised. I don’t know if he said it, but I do know the A’s lost seven of their next nine and went home 8th, rather than fourth. You have to figure that Finley has a liberal education coming this season.

He talks in terms of pennant, and he’s serious. When the A’s got off well this season he called Gordon his candidate for “Manager of the Year.” When the team leveled off and played as expected, he fired Gordon.

If they keep losing, it’s almost a cinch Finley won’t understand. He may fire Bauer and Lane both and run the whole show. You don’t have to be around him long to gather that’s what he’d like to do.

In Bauer, the A’s have one of the games renowned battlers on the field, and one of its nicer guys off the field. I was with him in New York one evening recently and we walked into a hotel. The help there treated him like royalty. They came running from every direction to say hello.

“I lived here for a few years when I was with the Yankees,” Bauer explained. When he was named manager, it was recalled here that a congressman once made one of those unnecessary speeches, accusing the services of coddling baseball stars during the war.

He named Bauer as one of those who were pampered and put in a soft job. He obviously didn’t know he was referring to a veteran of a couple of beachheads who had earned himself some medals the hard way.

Bauer didn’t say much, but his friends did. The congressman later apologized.

As anybody who ever had a good look at Bauer would have told him, he was messing with the wrong man.


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