SABR

Doug Hansen

This article was written by John F. Green.

Buried on the back page of sports sections on August 20, 1951 was the announcement that Doug Hansen had been added to the roster of the Cleveland Indians. He was on the club's National Defense Service List, and had been discharged from the army as a "hardship" case after eight months of service. It was reported he was the sole support of his mother and younger siblings. The six-foot, 180-pound second baseman had played for the Tribe's Wilkes-Barre farm club in 1950, and was rated a solid prospect before he was selected for the military draft.

A more interesting baseball event happened in St. Louis the day before, when a dwarf went to bat at Sportsman's Park in a Browns-Tigers game. Eddie Gaedel, a three-foot, seven-inch, 65-pound stage performer, wearing the number "1/8" on his St. Louis uniform, was inserted as a pinch hitter by manager Zack Taylor in the second game of the twin bill. With the batter's box as center stage, he drew a four pitch walk leading off the bottom of the initial inning, trotted to first base, and was replaced by pinch runner Jim Delsing. Gaedel left the diamond to a standing ovation from the 18,369 fans in the park. The applause was music to the ears of Browns' owner Bill Veeck, promoter of the momentous event.

Eddie Gaedel's feat is recorded in baseball record books on a single line; it shows all zeros, excepting games (one) and bases on balls (one). Few baseball followers know the story behind Doug Hansen's only line; he wore Cleveland's number "2" in September 1951 and was in only three games; he was used as a pinch runner on each occasion, scoring twice.

The Indians were battling the Yankees for the 1951 pennant when Hansen came on board. The clubs fought it out until the final week in September, when the Bronx Bombers won their last five games, and Cleveland dropped five of its last six, to finish five paces back. Skipper Al Lopez let the rookie Hansen take in the action from the far end of the bench; the Indians had the veteran Roberto "Bobby" Avila at second base, with former Yankee George "Snuffy" Stirnweiss in reserve.

Hansen bided his time, and finally was summoned to take the field on September 4 as a pinch runner for Early Wynn, who had grounded into a fielder's choice while pinch hitting in the eleventh inning of a game with the White Sox. Doug was left stranded on base as the Indians lost at home, 3-1. On September 7 the Indians split a doubleheader with the Browns at Sportsman's Park. The Browns came back to take the opener, 4-2. Hansen ran for catcher George "Birdie" Tebbetts in the seventh inning and crossed the plate with the second Cleveland run. (Bob Feller shut out St. Louis to take the nightcap, 7-0.) Finally, at Philadelphia on September 11, Doug was utilized as a runner for Tebbetts in the eighth inning of the second game of a doubleheader, and tallied again, but the A's rallied and were triumphant by a 9-5 score.

Hansen's career in the major leagues was thus limited to these three games. He never saw action with the glove or bat, but scored two runs. In all three games he "played" in, the Indians were defeated.

Douglas William Hansen was born into the family of Edgar John Hansen and MaryAnn Nicholas Hansen on December 16, 1928, in Los Angeles, California. He was the third of five children, being preceded by sister Neva Mae and brother Howard, and followed by sister Ruth and brother Kenneth.

Edgar Hansen was one of four sons of Utah Mormon pioneer John O. Hansen, a highly regarded blacksmith in Hiram County. Family patriarch John O. left the blacksmithing business when the automobile came into prominence, and moved the family to farm country in Idaho. With four hardy sons and two farms, the future looked bright for John O.'s clan, but continuing crop failures put a damper on the agricultural enterprise, and the family scattered. Most of the brood resettled in southern California.

Doug's father was not an athlete, but the other three sons of John O. all excelled in one sport or another. The eldest, Melvin, became a professional boxer, and lived to be 99 years old. Brother George joined the navy submarine service, and was a fleet wrestling champion. Owen, the youngest, earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Southern California. He lettered three years in two sports, excelling as a shot putter on the track squad and as a guard on the football team. Owen later played professional football for the Hollywood Bears in the fledgling Pacific Coast League, where his teammates included UCLA grads Kenny Washington and Jackie Robinson. Later he became a successful high school football coach and a champion amateur golfer.

Edgar Hansen worked to support his family as an insurance salesman, and later toiled as a public works employee with the County of Los Angeles. Edgar and MaryAnn divorced, however, and the children struggled to make their way without a father in the household. Howard Hansen played football at Fremont High in Los Angeles, and in 1942 was named to the all-city squad as a guard. His quarterback at Fremont was Gene Mauch, who had a long baseball career as a player and manager. Howard entered USC in 1943, but left in his freshman year to enlist in the Marine Corps flight program. He earned his wings and officer's commission, and was discharged in 1946, transferring to UCLA, where he excelled at running back for Coach Henry "Red" Sanders. After graduation he played professionally with Edmonton in the Canadian Football League, but his life ended tragically in 1952 when he fell while hiking on Squaw Peak, east of Provo, Utah.

Doug Hansen played baseball at Fremont High; the list of big leaguers turned out by that school is impressive, and includes: Bobby Doerr, Gene Mauch, George Metkovich, Vernal "Nippy" Jones, Willie Crawford, Dan Ford, Eric Davis, George Hendrick, Chet Lemon, Bobby Tolan, and Bob Watson. Hansen left high school in 1947 to sign with the hometown Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. He went to spring training with that club and was optioned to Visalia in the Class C California League, where he played 31 games at second base and batted .248. Doug was moved to Class D El Paso to finish the 1947 season, and hit .291 in 56 games.

In 1948 Hansen remained at El Paso, playing in 141 games at the keystone, and began to put up some power numbers. He hit 34 doubles, 10 triples, and seven homers to go with his .276 batting mark. He became Cleveland property in 1949, and spent the year with Harrisburg in the Class B Inter-State League, where he hit .241 in 137 games, with 11 four-baggers. Doug moved up to Wilkes-Barre in the Class A Eastern circuit in 1950. He turned into a promising prospect, batting .289, with 29 doubles, nine triples, and 17 round-trippers. After the season, Hansen's contract was purchased by the parent Indians, and he was ordered to report to training camp with Cleveland the following spring.

Uncle Sam intervened, however, and with the Korean Conflict being waged, Doug was drafted into the army. He spent eight months in khaki, was briefly discharged at Camp Roberts, California and joined the Indians on August 20, 1951. After his short season as a pinch runner, Hansen was ordered back into the army, and spent most of 1952 at Fort Ord, California. Doug was discharged before Christmas, and the Indians instructed him to be present for early spring training at Daytona Beach, Florida in February 1953. Doug's performance in Florida earned him an invitation to the Indians' regular spring camp at Tucson, Arizona.

One Cleveland regular was missing at Tucson: second sacker Bobby Avila. He regularly played winter ball in Mexico, and had injured his ankle. Also, Avila reportedly had been asked to take a pay cut, hadn't signed his contract, and was a holdout. With Avila in absentia, Hansen became the recipient of most of the playing time at second base in training camp. He started off well, playing with veterans Luke Easter at first, Al Rosen at third, and Ray Boone at shortstop. Doug had some big hits as the Indians played through the Arizona and California exhibitions. On the eastern portion of the 22-game series with the New York Giants, Hansen played with mixed results; he belted homers in Albuquerque and Denver, but committed two critical errors in Kingsport, Tennessee. When the two teams ended their series in New York on March 25, the Indians made their final roster moves.

With Avila back in shape and with a signed contract, Hansen was shipped out to Indianapolis, the Indians' Class Triple-A farm. The move was a big disappointment, not only for Doug, but for some Cleveland veterans. As reported in the March 26 edition of The Washington Post, a column written by Cleveland writer Hal Lebovitz said, "Indian players are pulling for rookie Doug Hansen to beat Avila out of his job." Lebovitz also wrote that "Avila's teammates are fed up with his loafing and his perennial lateness in coming up from Mexico to the Tribe's spring training camp."

Soon after joining Indianapolis, Hansen broke his thumb, played in only 38 games, and batted just .198. He was demoted to Reading, Cleveland's new Eastern League farm, where he played third base, hit six homers and batted .253. He was recalled by the Indians in September, not getting into any game action, and told to report to 1954 spring training with the parent club.

On January 23, 1954 the club informed Doug that he had been sold to Indianapolis, and shortly after, the Indiana team moved him to Buffalo in the International League. Hansen played 82 games there, batted .220, and clouted eight four-baggers. However, he wasn't hitting the ball with the authority he had before his 1953 thumb injury. With a return to The Show unlikely, and with a wife and growing family, Doug decided to retire from the game.

In 1955 Hansen moved the family to Provo, Utah, where he went to work for U. S. Steel. He also returned to baseball as a coach for the semi-pro Provo "Timps." Doug's younger brother, Kenny, by now a strapping eighteen-year-old lefthanded power hitter, came up from Los Angeles to play for his brother's club. Kenny signed later with the Milwaukee Braves, and played three years in that organization's minor league system. Unfortunately he was beaned while playing for Lawton in the Sooner State League, and vision problems from that incident ended Kenny Hansen's baseball career.

Doug Hansen came out of retirement briefly in 1956 to go to spring camp with the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League. Former Pittsburgh slugger Ralph Kiner was general manager at San Diego, needed infield help, and asked Doug to join the Padres at their Palm Springs training base. Doug went to California, played in a few exhibition tilts, but took part in only two league games before drawing his release.

Doug took a job with Kaiser Steel in Fontana, California, worked there for several years, then returned to U.S. Steel in Utah. He advanced to foreman in the rolling mill, but when union contract negotiations made it difficult for middle management personnel, Hansen left for a new career in the insurance business. Doug's outgoing personality and baseball contacts helped him in selling, and he broadened his financial ventures into land speculation. Unfortunately the timing was bad, and as interest rates began their rise in the late 1970's, Hansen's financial situation began to unravel.

Physical ailments were taking their toll on Doug as well, and in 1980 he had open heart surgery. His financial burdens led to a nervous breakdown, and Doug was forced to declare bankruptcy. After that setback, he became reclusive, and seldom ventured beyond the presence of his wife and seven children. On September 16, 1999, Douglas William Hansen, whose number two on the back of his Cleveland Indians uniform equaled the number of runs he scored in his brief major league career, died in his sleep in Orem, Utah. He was 70 years old.


Sources

ProQuest Historical Newspapers

www.baseball-reference.com

Correspondence and clippings from files of Kenneth Hansen

Telephone conversations with Kenneth Hansen

www.baseballlibrary.com

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