Casey Stengel

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Casey Stengel
Casey Stengel
Outfielder, Manager
Born: July 30, 1890
Died: September 29 1975 (aged 85)
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
September 17, 1912
for the Brooklyn Dodgers
Final game
May 19, 1925
for the Boston Braves
Career statistics
Batting average     .284
Home runs     60
Runs batted in     535
Teams

As Player

  • Brooklyn Dodgers (1912-1917)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates (1918-1919)
  • Philadelphia Phillies (1920-1921)
  • New York Giants (San Fransisco Giants) (1921-1923)
  • Boston Braves (Atlanta Braves) (1924-1925)

As Manager

  • Brooklyn Dodgers (1934-1936)
  • Boston Braves (Atlanta Braves) (1938-1943)
  • New York Yankees (1949-1960)
  • New York Mets (1962-1965)
Career highlights and awards
  • 1905 Career wins as a Manager
  • 7 World Series titles as a Manager

Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel (July 30, 1890 - September 29, 1975) was an American baseball player and manager from the early 1910s into the 1960s. He was born in Kansas City, and was originally nicknamed "Dutch," a common nickname at that time for Americans of German ancestry. After his major league career started, he acquired the nickname "Casey," which originally came from the initials of his hometown ("K.C."), which evolved into "Casey," influenced by the wide popularity of the poem, Casey at the Bat. In the 1950s, sportswriters dubbed him with yet another nickname, "The Old Professor," for his sharp wit and his ability to speak at length on anything baseball-related.

Although his baseball career spanned a number of teams and cities, he is primarily associated with clubs in New York City. Between playing and managing, he was connected with all four of New York's major league clubs. He was the first of four men (as of 2006) to manage both the Yankees and the Mets (Yogi Berra, Dallas Green, and Joe Torre are the others). He ended his baseball career as the beloved manager for the expansion New York Mets, which won over the hearts of New York due to their "lovable loser" image and the unique character of their veteran leader.

Contents

Early life

Stengel was athletically gifted and played various sports in grade school and high school, including baseball, football, and basketball. He had no particular illusions of sports as a long-term profession, and he had aspirations of a career in dentistry. As described in his autobiography, he saved enough money from his early minor league experience in 1910-1911 to train to become a dentist. He had some problems due to the lack of left-handed instruments and the training was a struggle. Meanwhile, his minor league career picked up, as he was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers and spent most of the 1912 season playing for the Montgomery, Alabama club in the Southern Association. He had "a pretty good year" with Montgomery, batting .290 with a reputation as a good base stealer. He was brought up to the Dodgers late in the season, and baseball soon became his primary occupation. He would marry Edna Lawson, an accountant, in 1923, after a chance encounter at a baseball game; however, the couple had no children, and therefore, Stengel dedicated much of his time to teaching the younger players the way of the baseball world.

Major League career

Stengel was an outfielder on several teams in the National League beginning on September 17, 1912: the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1912-1917; the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1918 and 1919, the Philadelphia Phillies in 1920 and part of 1921, the New York Giants from 1921 to 1923, and the Boston Braves (now Atlanta Braves) in 1924 and 1925. He played in three World Series—in 1916, for the Dodgers and in 1922 and 1923, for the Giants.

He threw left handed and batted left handed en route to batting .284 over 14 major league seasons.

Stengel was a competent player, but by no means a star. On July 8, 1958, discussing his career before the United States Senate's Estes Kefauver committee on baseball's antitrust status, he made this observation: "I had many years that I was not so successful as a ballplayer, as it is a game of skill."[1]

On the other hand, he once joked: "I was such a dangerous hitter I even got intentional walks during batting practice."[2]

Nonetheless, he had a good World Series in a losing cause in 1923, hitting two home runs to win the two games the Giants won in that Series. He was traded to the perennial second-division-dwelling Braves in the off-season, a fact which apparently stung him. Years later he made this pithy comment: "It's lucky I didn't hit 3 home runs in three games, or (John) McGraw would have traded me to the 3-I League." Stengel became a part of history as his home runs during the World Series were the first Series home runs ever hit at Yankee Stadium.[3]

In 1919, Stengel, now on the Pittsburgh Pirates, was being taunted mercilessly by fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers, his old team. Somehow Casey got hold of a sparrow and used it to turn the crowd in his favor. With the bird tucked gently beneath his cap, Casey strutted to the plate amidst a chorus of boos and catcalls. He turned to the crowd, tipped his hat and out flew the sparrow! The jeers turned to cheers, and Casey became an instant favorite.

New York Yankees

Casey Stengel's number 37 was retired by the New York Yankees in 1970

Stengel became better known for managing than for playing. His first managerial positions were on the Brooklyn Dodgers (1934-1936) and Boston Braves (1938-1943), where he was not very successful, never finishing better than 5th in an 8-team league. As he said in 1958, "I became a major league manager in several cities and was discharged. We call it discharged because there is no question I had to leave."[4]

Stengel demonstrated he could be successful as a manager of a team having worthy talent. In 1944, Stengel was hired as the manager of the minor league Milwaukee Brewers despite strenuous objections from club owner Bill Veeck (who was serving in the South Pacific with the Marines at the time, and therefore unable to prevent the hiring). Veeck was proven wrong, as Stengel led the Brewers to the American Association pennant that year. In 1948, Stengel managed the Oakland Oaks to the Pacific Coast League championship. This caught the attention of the New York Yankees, who were looking for a new manager.

Despite a good deal of initial skepticism in the press, Stengel was hired as the skipper of the Yankees in 1949, and finally had a chance for success at the major league level. When he took the reins of the Yankees, he made this observation: "There is less wrong with this team than any team I have ever managed." That would prove to be an understatement.

He proceeded to set records for championships, becoming the only person to manage a team to five consecutive World Series championships as the late-40s, early-50s Yankees became a juggernaut. He won two additional world championships and three league pennants afterward. While managing the Yankees, Stengel gained a reputation as one of the game's sharpest tacticians: He platooned left and right handed hitters extensively (which had become a lost art by the late 1940s), and sometimes pinch hit for his starting pitcher in early innings if he felt a timely hit would break the game open.

Stengel was a master publicist and promoter, especially for his teams. He became as much of a public figure as many of his star players, such as Mickey Mantle. He appeared on the cover of national, non-sports, magazines such as Time Magazine. His apparently stream-of-consciousness monologues on all facets of baseball history and tactics (and anything else that took his fancy) became known as "Stengelese" to sportswriters. They also earned him the nickname, "The Old Professor."

In the spring of 1953, after the Yankees had won 4 straight World Series victories he made the following observation, which could just as easily have been made by The Perfessor's prize pupil, Yogi Berra, "If we're going to win the pennant, we've got to start thinking we're not as smart as we think we are."[5]

Although Stengel benefited from the Yankees' deep pockets and ability to sign players, he was a hands-on manager. The 1949 Yankees were riddled by injuries, and Stengel's platooning abilities played a major role in their championship run. Platooning also played a major role in the 1951 team's World Series run. With Joe DiMaggio declining rapidly and Mickey Mantle still a rookie, the Yankees were weak offensively. Stengel, leaving his solid pitching alone, moved players in and out of the line-up, putting good hitters in the line-up in the early innings and benching them for good fielders later. The strategy worked: The Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians for the pennant in September and took the Series from the New York Giants four games to two.[6]

Casey's Amazin' Mets

Casey Stengel's number 37 was retired by the New York Mets in 1965

After losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series following a ninth-inning, game-winning home run by Bill Mazeroski, Stengel was involuntarily retired from the Yankees. After making numerous crucial mistakes in the 1960 series, he was believed to be too old to manage. Over the years, his tactical genius kept the Yankees in many games they might have otherwise lost. During that great run of 10 pennants in 12 years from 1949-1960 the Yankees weren’t much better than many of the other good clubs in the American league, especially Cleveland, Boston and Chicago. However, in the 1960 Series, Stengel’s moves allowed a woefully inferior Pittsburgh team to win in seven games. The Yankees had outscored the Pirates 55–27, yet lost 4 games to 3. He held Whitey Ford out until Game 3, which only allowed the league's best pitcher to pitch (and win) two games. Art Ditmar started game 1 and he lost. There has never been any logical explanation why Ford didn’t pitch. Another “mistake” that Stengel made was pinch hitting for slick fielding but light hitting Clete Boyer early in game 1. This kind of move was typical Stengel and over the years marked his method of success. The pinch hitter, however, didn’t come through this time and Boyer could be seen slowly retreating—clearly disheartened—toward the dugout dragging his bat behind him. This rattled the Yankee brass who wanted to see players like Boyer developed. Young players like Kubek, Richardson, and Boyer made it known they didn’t feel comfortable with Stengel and he was let go.

He was talked out of retirement after one season to manage the New York Mets, which at the time was an expansion team with no chance of winning many games. Mocking his well-publicized advanced age, when he was hired he said, "It's a great honor to be joining the Knickerbockers," a New York baseball team that had seen its last game around the time of the Civil War.[7]

The Mets proved to be so incompetent that they gave Stengel plenty of fresh Stengelese material for the New York City newspaper writers. "Come see my "Amazin' Mets," Stengel said. "I've been in this game a hundred years, but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before." On his three catchers: "I got one that can throw but can't catch, one that can catch but can't throw, and one who can hit but can't do either." Referring to the rookies Ed Kranepool and Greg Goossen in 1964, Stengel observed, "See that fellow over there? He's 20 years old. In 10 years he has a chance to be a star. Now, that fellow over there, he's 20, too. In 10 years he has a chance to be 30." Kranepool never became a star, but he did have an 18-year major league career.

However, one of his most famous comments was actually a misquote. After an exasperating loss, he complained, "Can't anybody play this here game?" This colloquial expression was altered and later became the title of Jimmy Breslin's book about the first-year Mets, Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?."[8]

Though his "Amazin'" Mets finished last in a 10-team league all four years, Stengel was a popular figure nonetheless, not least due to his personal charisma. The Mets themselves proved to be as lovable, due in part to Stengel's charisma and the "lovable loser" charm that followed the team around in those days. Fans packed the old Polo Grounds (prior to Shea Stadium being built), many of them bringing along colorful placards and signs with all sorts of sayings on them. Warren Spahn, who had briefly played under Stengel for the 1942 Braves and for the 1965 Mets, commented: "I'm probably the only guy who worked for Stengel before and after he was a genius."[9]

Stengel's retirement, announced on August 30, 1965, followed a fall at Shea Stadium, in which he broke his hip.

Awards

Casey Stengel's plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

His uniform number 37 has been retired by both the Yankees and the Mets. It is the only number ever to have been issued only once by the Mets. The Yankees retired the number on August 8, 1970, and dedicated a plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park in his memory on July 30, 1976. The plaque says of him, "For over sixty years one of America's folk heroes who contributed immensely to the lore and language of the Yankees and our national pastime baseball." He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, and inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1981.

Stengel is the only person to have worn the uniform (as player or manager) of all four Major League Baseball teams that played in New York City in the twentieth century (while each team was in New York City): The New York Giants (as a player), the Brooklyn Dodgers (as both a player and a manager), the New York Yankees (as a manager), and the New York Mets (also as a manager). Of this factoid, Stengel would often say, "You can look it up."

Monument Park plaque for Casey Stengel

Death

Casey was admitted to Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, California, on September 14, 1975, after feeling ill. It was there that he learned he had cancer of the lymph glands. He died there of cancer just 15 days later, on September 29, 1975, at the age of 85. Stengel was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. His wife, Edna, passed away three years later and was interred next to him.

Grave site of Casey Stengel

Legacy

Casey Stengel will always be remembered for his role in turning the Yankees into a dynasty. To this day, his ten trips to the world series and seven series wins are still the most in baseball history. He also holds the record for most World Series victories at 37, and most fall classic games managed at 63. However, Stengel's unorthodox baseball execution and his charismatic personality that he seemingly always carried with him are what standout the most. In fact, Stengel's speech has been classified into its own language: Stengelese. Casey's adjustments in the lineup during certain junctures of the game made the concept of platooning famous throughout the league. One of Stengel's most memorable Stengelese moments occurred in 1958, when Stengel testified before a United States Senate committee which was investigating baseball's anti-trust exemption. His 45-minute, 7,000-word monologue had senators and reporters scratching their heads and laughing uproariously. Sports Illustrated called the testimony "an amazingly frank, cheerful, shrewd, patriotic address that left the senators stunned, bewildered, and delighted."

In his own words, he writes his own legacy as a fun-loving winner: "The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided."[10] When notified that he had been released from his position as Yankee manager, he jokingly said, "They told me my services were no longer desired because they wanted to put in a youth program as an advance way of keeping the club going. I'll never make the mistake of being seventy again." Ultimately, Stengel's legacy is highlighted in one of his more inspirational quotes: "The trick is growing up without growing old."

The Casey Stengel Plaza surrounding Shea Stadium is named in Stengel's honor, as is the New York City Transit's Casey Stengel Depot across the street from the stadium.

Notes

  1. Charles Einstein, The Third Fireside Book of Baseball (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968), p. 434.
  2. Casey Stengel, Quotes. Retrieved December 21, 2007.
  3. "Stengel, Casey (1890-1975)," in Encyclopedia of World Biography, ed. Jennifer Mossman (Detroit: Gale Group, 1999).
  4. Charles Einstein, The Third Fireside Book of Baseball (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968), p. 434.
  5. Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, The Gospel According to Casey (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), p. 120.
  6. Robert W. Creamer, Stengel: His Life and Times (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 227-249.
  7. Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, The Gospel According to Casey (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), p. 15.
  8. Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, The Gospel According to Casey (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), p. 21.
  9. Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, The Gospel According to Casey (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), p.x
  10. Casey Stengel, Quotes. Retrieved December 21, 2007.

References

  • Berkow, Ira and Jim Kaplan. The Gospel According to Casey. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. ISBN 0312069227
  • Creamer, Robert W. Stengel: His Life and Times. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984. ISBN 0671224891 9780671224899
  • Einstein, Charles. The Third Fireside Book of Baseball. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968.
  • Pietrusza, David, Matthew Silverman, and Michael Gerhman, eds. Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia. Total/Sports Illustrated, 2000. ISBN ISBN 1892129345
  • Stengel, Casey and Harry T. Paxton. Casey at the Bat: The Story of My Life in Baseball. Random House, 1962.

External links


Preceded by:
Max Carey
Brooklyn Dodgers Manager
1934–1936
Succeeded by:
Burleigh Grimes
Preceded by:
Bill McKechnie
Boston Bees/Boston Braves Manager
1938-1943
Succeeded by:
Bob Coleman
Preceded by:
Bucky Harris
New York Yankees Manager
1949-1960
Succeeded by:
Ralph Houk
Preceded by:
First manager
New York Mets Manager
1962-1965
Succeeded by:
Wes Westrum

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