Casey Stengel

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File:Stengel.jpg
Casey Stengel, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers

Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel (born July 30, 1890 or 1891, died September 29, 1975) was a famous baseball player and manager. He got the nickname "Casey" from Kansas City ("K. C."), Missouri, where he was born. In his early days, he was also known as "Dutch".

Playing career

He played on several teams in the National League beginning on September 17, 1912: the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1912 to 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 in 1924 and 1925. He played in three World Series: in 1916 for the Dodgers and in 1922 and 1923 for the Giants.

Template:MLB HoF He threw left handed and batted left handed. His batting average was .284 over 14 major league seasons.

He was a competent player, but by no means a superstar. On July 8, 1958, discussing his career before the 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]

Nonetheless, he had a good World Series in a losing cause in 1923, hitting 2 home runs to win the two games the Giants won in that Series. He was traded to the 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 McGraw would have traded me to the 3-I League."

Yankee manager

He is better known for managing than playing. His first managerships were on the Brooklyn Dodgers (from 1934 to 1936) and Boston Braves (1938-1943), where he was not very successful, never finishing better than fifth 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."

In 1949 he became manager of the New York Yankees, where he saw a chance for success. His astuteness and realistic viewpoint as a manager is revealed in this comment about the Yankees when he took their reins: "There is less wrong with this team than any team I have ever managed." That would happily 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 additional league pennants afterward. While managing the Yankees he gained a reputation as one of the game's sharpest tactitians: 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. While praised for his platooning strategy, he downplayed it: "There's not much of a secret to it. You put a righthand hitter against a lefthand pitcher and a lefthand hitter against a righthand pitcher and on cloudy days you use a fastball pitcher".

He was also known as a wit and raconteur, whose 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 Perfesser".

In the spring of 1953, after the Yankees had won four 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."

Casey's Amazin' Mets

After being involuntarily retired from the Yankees in 1960 as too old ("I'll never make the mistake of being 70 again!"), he went on to manage the New York Mets, at the time an expansion team with no chance of winning many games, from 1962 to 1965. 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.

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. His retirement followed a fall at Shea Stadium, in which he broke his hip.

Honors

His uniform number 37 has been retired by both the Yankees and 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 calls 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 20th 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).

In 1975 he was asked if he would like to return to managing. He responded, "Well, to be perfectly truthful and honest and frank about it, I am 85 years old, which ain't bad, so to be truthful and honest and frank about it, the thing I'd like to be right now is...an astronaut."

He died in Glendale, California and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California.

The day of his passing on to the Heavenly Hall of Fame, Los Angeles columnist Jim Murray said, "Well, God is getting an earful tonight."

The plaza surrounding Shea Stadium is named after Stengel (Casey Stengel Plaza), as is the New York City Transit Bus Depot (Casey Stengel Depot) nearby.

Source

  • Quotations sprinkled through this article are from the book The Gospel According to Casey, by Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, (c)1992.

External links