Sunday, November 09, 2008

#146 Ron Hansen

Ron Hansen by you.
Time marches on with Ron Hansen, whom the Orioles signed right out of high school in Nebraska. After a solid debut season in pro ball (.289, 84 RBI), the nineteen-year old had a shot to crack the Baltimore roster in 1957. Unfortunately, he slipped a disk in his back and missed the entire season. After brief callups in the following two years, Ron was finally installed at shortstop in Charm City for 1960. At 6'3" and 200 pounds he was an unconventional player at his position in the days before Ripken and A-Rod; he definitely had a more powerful bat than most of his contemporaries. That was certainly the case in his first full year, as he hit 22 home runs to lead the Birds. Hansen also hit a serviceable .255, though 69 walks boosted his on-base percentage to .342. For his efforts, he was named to the All-Star team and was a near-unanimous selection for A.L. Rookie of the Year (teammates Jim Gentile and Chuck Estrada each received one first-place vote).

Ron's power declined appreciably in his sophomore season (12 home runs), but he did lead A.L. shortstops in double plays. He didn't have a chance to reverse his fortunes in 1962, as he hit just .173 in 71 games in a season cut short by military service. While serving as a Marine in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Hansen reinjured his back. This brought his Oriole career to an inglorious end, as he was one of four players dealt to the White Sox in the offseason trade that brought his replacement, Luis Aparicio, to Baltimore.

Ronnie stayed reasonably healthy in Chicago, playing at least 144 games in four out of five seasons. 1964 represented the only year in which he performed on a level equal to his award-winning rookie season: .261, 20 home runs, 68 RBI. However, he remained willing to take walks, and still had double-digit homer power throughout his time in the Windy City. He was also frequently among the league leaders in assists and double plays turned. In February of 1968, the Pale Hose sent him to Washington in a six-player trade. That summer, the Sox would reacquire the shortstop for Tim Cullen, who they had just acquired in the earlier trade! During his brief time in D.C., Hansen put his name in the record books as the only player to turn an unassisted triple play between 1927 and 1992.

Back in Chi-town, Ron settled into a backup role, though he didn't settle for long. He spent one-and-a-half years with the White Sox, two more with the Yankees, and a final few months in Kansas City before bowing out in 1972. He's proven to be a baseball lifer; after coaching in Milwaukee and Montreal for much of the 1980s, he's spent the ensuing years as a scout with the Yankees and Phillies.

Fun fact: The same week that Hansen turned his triple play, he also struck out in six consecutive at-bats. On August 1, he walked his first time up against Tigers pitcher Pat Dobson, and broke his skein in the fourth inning by hitting a grand slam. The next day he was traded to the White Sox - talk about an eventful week!
Ron Hansen (back) by you.

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