Hank Sauer

Henry John Sauer (March 17, 1917 – August 24, 2001) was an American professional baseball player, coach and scout. He appeared in 1,399 games, primarily as a left fielder, in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Cincinnati Reds (1941–1942, 1945, 1948–1949), Chicago Cubs (1949–1955), St. Louis Cardinals (1956), and New York / San Francisco Giants (1957–1959).

Hank Sauer
Sauer as a Red, 1948
Left fielder
Born: (1917-03-17)March 17, 1917
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died: August 24, 2001(2001-08-24) (aged 84)
Burlingame, California, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 9, 1941, for the Cincinnati Reds
Last MLB appearance
August 17, 1959, for the San Francisco Giants
MLB statistics
Batting average.266
Home runs288
Runs batted in876
Career highlights and awards

A two-time All-Star, Sauer hit more than 30 home runs six times in the seven seasons of 1948 through 1954. He was a feared slugger for the early-1950s Cubs, exceeding the 30-homer mark five times in a Chicago uniform, with a career-high of 41 in 1954. His most productive season came in 1952, when Sauer led the National League in home runs (37, tied with Ralph Kiner) and runs batted in (121), and was named the Most Valuable Player. Sauer and Johnny Bench are the only players in major league history ever to have hit three homers in a single game twice against the same pitcher. He did it 1950 and 1952 while with the Cubs, victimizing Curt Simmons of the Philadelphia Phillies. A younger brother, Ed, also an outfielder, played in 189 games in the majors for three National League teams during the 1940s.


As a Cub, c. 1953

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Hank Sauer was listed as 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall and 198 pounds (90 kg). He threw and batted right-handed. He started his professional career in the New York Yankees' organization, and was acquired by Cincinnati in October 1939 after three minor league seasons. After two short stints totaling 16 games with the 1941–1942 Reds, World War II service in the United States Coast Guard, then another audition, this time 31 games, for the 1945 Reds, Sauer spent the full seasons of 1946 and 1947 with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. In the latter year, Sauer led the 1947 International League in runs scored (130), hits (182) and runs batted in (141); he slugged 50 homers, three fewer than league leader Howie Moss, and hit .336, one percentage point behind batting champion Nippy Jones. He was named the circuit's MVP.

His breakout season in Syracuse earned him a permanent major league spot, at age 31, with the 1948 Reds, and Sauer would play in over one hundred games in every season through 1954. As Cincinnati's regular left fielder in 1948, Sauer slugged 35 home runs, fourth in the National League. But he started slowly in 1949, with only four homers in his first 32 games, and on June 15, he was traded to the Cubs in a two-for-two, all-outfielder trade involving Frank Baumholtz, Harry Walker and Peanuts Lowrey.

During a time when the Cubs were especially moribund, Sauer provided some joy for the team's fans with his power hitting, earning him the nickname "The Mayor of Wrigley Field". In addition to his 37 blasts in 1952 and 41 in 1954, Sauer also put up seasons of 27, 32 and 30 home runs as a Cub. He was well known for using smokeless tobacco, and it has often been reported that after he hit a home run, when he returned to his left field position, bleacher fans might shower him with packets of his favorite chew, Beech Nut tobacco.

Sauer was not especially fleet afoot. In contrast to radio's Quiz Kids or the 1950 Phillies "Whiz Kids", according to Chicago columnist Mike Royko the 1950s Cubs had an outfield "that was so slow they were known as the Quicksand Kids." Sauer, Baumholtz and Kiner played left, center and right fields, respectively.[1]

One of the highlights of Sauer's tenure in Chicago occurred during the 1952 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, played July 8 at Shibe Park, Philadelphia. Starting in left field for the National League, Sauer came to bat in the fourth inning with the NL trailing 2–1 and Stan Musial on first base. Facing eventual Hall of Famer Bob Lemon, Sauer belted a two-run homer to give his team the lead. When the game was called due to rain after it had completed the mandatory five innings, the NL was awarded the 3–2 victory and Sauer's homer stood as the winning blow.[2]

In 1954, Sauer recorded career highs of 41 home runs, 98 runs scored, and a .938 OPS. In 1955, however, Sauer batted only .211 in 79 games for the Cubs, and was traded to the Cardinals during spring training in 1956. He appeared in 75 games for the Redbirds that season and batted .298 in part-time duty, but—nearing his 40th birthday—he was handed his unconditional release October 16. He signed as a free agent with the Giants, and in 1957, the club's last year in New York City, he slugged 26 home runs in 127 games, finishing tenth in the Senior Circuit in long balls. He played two more years with the franchise in San Francisco before becoming a coach late in 1959, and then a long-time scout and roving minor league batting instructor for the Giants.

In his 15-season MLB career, Sauer was a .266 hitter with 288 home runs and 876 runs batted in. His 1,278 hits also included 200 doubles and 19 triples. He died of a heart attack while playing golf in Burlingame, California, on August 24, 2001, at the age of 84.

See also


  1. Royko, Mike (2000). One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko. University of Chicago Press. pp. 29–31. ISBN 978-0226730721.
  2. Information at Retrosheet
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