I grew up in the 70s and 80s so I vision of old timers was always those who played in the late 50s and 60s.  Growing up in New Jersey I mostly heard about the old school New York teams.  I say this because I was surfing the web yesterday and came across the list of top 10 at bats per home run, yeah I know I’m a stat geek.

The usual names were at the top of the list, McGwire, Ruth, Bonds, and Pujols, but as I went down the list I came across a name I had never heard of, Hank Sauer.  I clicked to see his stats and what hit me immediately was that he was a former MVP in 1952.  He beat out Robin Roberts who had an amazing season himself.  That year he hit 0.270/37/121 for a 0.500 Cubs team in which he was the offense.

What’s even more amazing about his story is he didn’t become a regular player until he was 31 years old, mostly due in part to World War II.  From 1948 – 1954 he was one of the most feared hitters in the National League.  Keep in mind he was 31 – 37 years old at that point.  Most players tend to decline around the age of 32, that’s when Hank started heating up.

He would finish his career with a 0.266/288/876 stat line and you have to wonder, how good could he haven been if he had been a regular sooner in his life.  His 16.7 at bats per home rate is good for 42nd overall all-time.  And his similar player list kind of gives you an idea of just what kind of player he was:

  1. Roger Maris (937)
  2. Jay Buhner (928)
  3. Danny Tartabull (926)
  4. Richie Sexson (917)
  5. Jesse Barfield (913)
  6. Dean Palmer (910)
  7. Bob Allison (902)
  8. Geoff Jenkins (899)
  9. Carl Everett (899)
  10. Pat Burrell (898)
There are plenty of cards of him out there as well as some certified autographs.  My personal favorite has to be the 2002 Topps Archive autograph of him pictured below.  You can pick up his autograph for as little as $15 which is a bargain in my opinion.  For a Cubs fan, he is a must own card.
 Image 1 2001 Topps Archives Autographs Hank Sauer E1 AUTO
What are your thoughts on Hank Sauer and name someone who you think has been forgotten over time?
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7 responses »

  1. Haha, you grew up in Jersey? Hearing NY lure leads me to believe that had to be North Jersey. Down in South Jersey it’s the eastern Philly suburbs.
    Your stats geek status is what makes this site one of the few I have to hit up every time there is a new post. It adds to your quality articles.

    As for forgotten over time, how about Kenny Lofton? You never hear him mentioned now, and he’s only 4 years removed from retirement. I don’t know if many consider him a hall of famer, but he was one of the most consistent outfielders of his time, dominated all star ballots, and sports center top tens, and came up big in the clutch to help his team clinch World Series berths in 95, and 02.

    It’s funny that the Indians traded Lofton to get something for him if he left in free agency, lost in the World Series in that season without him, and then got him back in free agency. Really sad that he never got a ring, he was always an incredible player.

    • chemgod says:

      I actually grew up in central NJ along the shore (Red Bank). As far as Lofton goes, I’ve met him a bunch of times as I went to Arizona when he was there (I was a freshman when he was a senior). I’ve spoken with him while he was in the batting cages and I have to tell you he is just one of the most pleasant guys ever. He is without a doubt forgotten wax and although more than likely not a Hall of Famer, he will always be one of my favorite all time players. Not bad for a basketball player huh?

  2. Ryan LaMonica says:

    That’s a great post and thought process. William over at FoulBunt has introduced me to a few names that I had never heard of (similar to Sauer) and it has opened my eyes to some greats of the game beyond the usual suspects. Al Rosen and Virgil “Fire” Trucks are a couple of them.

    Rosen was AL MVP in ’53, an All-Star 4 times and led the AL in home runs in ’50. He was called up to join the club in September of ’48, in time to be a part of their World Series championship. My favorite story of Rosen is his consecutive home runs in the ’54 All Star Game……..that he hit with a broken finger. Yeah, that happens all the time today. Oh yes, he also piloted an assault boat when American forces invaded Okinawa in WW2.

    How about Virgil Trucks? After being released from active duty in the Navy for WW2, he re-joined his Tigers TWO WEEKS LATER for the World Series against the Cubbies. He won Game 2, by the way. Trucks also tossed 2 no-hitters in 1952, the second one coming against Mickey Mantle and the Yanks. What’s even more sensational is that he had an additional 1-hitter that season where the first batter of the game slapped a single before Mr. Trucks went the distance and allowed nothing further in the hit column. He was an All-Star 2 times and once led the AL in strikeouts.

    I had never heard of these gentlemen before, but now they are a favorite and treasured part of my humble baseball knowledge…….particularly for me because of their military service.

    There are plenty of others, too! Great post!

  3. Ryan LaMonica says:

    Oh yes – I forgot that I was going to tie it all back into cards. Duh………..well, another great aspect of learning about these more “quiet” legends is that they provide some great collecting opportunities. Their cards have never and will never reach the price-point echelon of the more popular greats like Mantle, Mays, Robinson, Aaron, etc., and this makes it that much easier for us “everyday” collectors to chase, find and acquire some fantastic vintage cards of great players with great stories and achievements. And THAT is what an enjoyable part of this hobby is all about, in my humble opinion.

    Have a great weekend!

    • chemgod says:

      Amen to that! I have begun to focus my collection on oddball subsets (heritage chrome, mini parallels, 3D cards, ect.) Also I like collecting autographs of lesser know greats like Harvey Haddix, Virgil Trucks, Roy Smalley, Robin Roberts, Marty Marion, etc. I think it makes collecting cards so much more enjoyable. I think for my next installment of forgotten wax I am going to do a checklist of the older players.

  4. It took me years to realize Sauer was a different player than Hank Bauer. I always thought it was a typo.

  5. Mike D says:

    I thought I had something long ago when my dad gave me his boyhood baseball mitt and it had one of those stamped signatures in it. I thought it was the great Hank Sauer, but instead it was the not as great Hank Bauer! To this day I don’t know if my dad was a fan of Bauer’s or not!

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