Writing about Art Unger in a 1970 Sports column, retired Denver Post sports columnist Harry Farrar said: “It’s difficult for today’s commercial sportsman to comprehend, but Denver’s era of amateurism produced some heroic figures. One of them was Art Unger. Unger was all-everything at Manual High School, All-Rocky Mountain Conference outfielder four times and two-way end for Colorado in the years of “Whizzer” White…”
Unger had six brothers and six sisters, spent his early boyhood in the Denver stockyards and was acquainted with austerity. At the University of Colorado, he collected nine sports letters. For five years, Unger played AAU basketball, including a season with the original Denver Nuggets (when the Denver Nuggets brought Denver its second National AAU championship) and another with the Denver Legion (which won Denver’s third and last AAU title).
Some of Denver’s old-timers regard Unger as probably the best semi-pro baseball player and softball player the city ever produced. During World War II, sports were drastically curtailed and softball at City Park regularly drew crowds up to 5,000 to watch fire-baller Art Unger blow batters away with ease and regularly blast home runs from the left side of the plate.
At Manual, Unger was named All-City in baseball (three times), basketball (two times) and football (two times), a 1935 batting champion with a .435 average, and hit an amazing .538 in 1936, He won three football letters, was named All-Conference end once, and received the All-America Board of Football Card of Merit and All-America Rating for exceptional play during the 1936 season.
Starting the powerful Coors and M&O semi-pro clubs in the forties and fifties, Unger was a feared hitter, reaching his peak when he won the 1946 batting title with a .460 average in the Victory League, a war-time semi-pro league that boasts a number of former major league players.
In softball, he was selected Most Popular Player in 1934, played in 25 All-Star games and was selected to the Metro Hall of Fame in 1993.
Unger passed away in 2003.
It’s difficult for today’s commercial sportsman to comprehend, but Denver’s era of amateurism produced some heroic figures.