CASEY STENGEL: YOU COULD
LOOK HIM UP
By Harvey Frommer
flies in life and especially in baseball. There is
always the “next big thing.”
we forget, there was once Charles Dillon Stengel, a
piece of work, bigger than life, bigger than baseball.
the dozen years he managed the Yankees, when the team was
at home, Stengel lived with his wife Edna at the swanky Essex House in
Manhattan. The love of his life, Edna was a former silent screen star,
high-fashion dresser who picked out all her husband’s clothes, and a
sophisticated woman who kept the accounts for the Stengel bank (her
owned a bank in Glendale)
and the oil profits.
The tips Stengel gave
at the Essex House were over the top because as Casey said:”I got so
I don’t know what to do with it.”
season, the big house in Glendale,
was the site of happening times for Edna’s nieces and nephews and --
Casey and Edna had no children of their own -- for Yankee players and
wives and children. At times there were
50 to 75 children
was real Yankee family back then,” Yogi Berra said.
“Casey and Edna were like a father and mother to us all.”
big house had a Chinese room and a Japanese room and was
stocked with antiques from trips all over the world.
Edna,” Casey would scream out in his gravelly
voice.” You tell them all about the time you played with Hoot Gibson”
(silent-screen star). And Edna would
reminisce patiently about her times as an actress and also about the
and Casey had gone on.
we won the World Series in 1949 and came to spring
training the next year,” Eddie Lopat told me, “Stengel told us: ‘Last
year is past
history. We never look back we gotta go back and beat ’em again this
came to the Yankees in 1949 and was the inheritor of
a team many thought of as a powerhouse. Within three years he had
creating a totally different type of club. Instead of featuring
most positions, Casey structured his team around the trio of Mickey
Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford. The rest of the team was mainly
Stengel pitted them against each other for playing time; this provided
that drove them to perform at their highest level whenever they were in
fella I got on third is hitting pretty good,” Stengel
explained, “ and I know he can make that throw, and if he don't make it
other fella I got coming up has shown me a lot, and if he can't, I have
and I know what he can do.”
had guys on the bench who could play as good as the
starters,” said Eddie Lopat. ”They hated
to get on the bench because they knew they might not get back for three
weeks. Snuffy Sternweiss was a regular in 1948. The next year he
little, and he got hurt. In came Jerry
Coleman. Sternweiss never came back. He
played seven games in 1950 and they traded him off.
we played the other teams,” Lopat continued,”we never
under-estimated them or ourselves. We
played the Giants in the 1951 World Series. We were told by the
that the Giants would run us off the field, that they were hot and they
all those games down the stretch. Casey’s attitude was our attitude.
have to run us off the field, but not in the newspapers.
1949, we played the Dodgers in the Series. We knew they
were young fellows without that much experience and we could beat them. In 1952, however, we knew they were now a
tough club, but we were prepared. We
were taught to never underestimate an opponent no matter what anybody
former slugger Bill Skowron explained to me, “would
leave us alone to get in shape in spring training. But when those last
of spring training came around you knew you had to be better ready to
talent just gushed to the Yankees in those Stengel years
from the farm system or through trades: Jerry Coleman and Gene Woodling
1949, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin in 1950, Tom Morgan, Gil McDougald,
and Mickey Mantle in 1951, Andy Carey and Ewell Blackwell in 1952, Bill
Skowron, Enos Slaughter and Bob Grim in 1954, Johnny Kucks, Elston
Larsen, Bob Turley, Bobby Richardson, Elston Howard and Tom Sturdivant
Ralph Terry came in 1956 and Tony Kubek came along in 1957. In 1958, Ryne Duren,
1959, Clete Boyer and Roger Maris in 1960.
was always a personal responsibility to new players
coming up,” Eddie Lopat explained. “If there was some technique, some
hitting, fielding pitching, we could teach the young players to
improve, we did
it and they learned it, and if they didn’t they were gone.”
“I was astonished at
the atmosphere on the team when I joined the Yankees in 1957 along with
Richardson,” affable Tony Kubek said. “Jerry Coleman and Gil McDougald
of their way to help us and we were to ultimately take their jobs. It
typical of the pinstripe loyalty, the atmosphere of everyone helping
helping the team, the atmosphere that Casey Stengel put in place.”
(to be continued)
Dr. Harvey Frommer received his Ph.D. from New York University.
Emeritus, Distinguished Professor nominee, Recipient of the "Salute to
Award" at CUNY where he taught writing for many years, the prolific
was cited by the Congressional Record and the New York State
as a sports historian and journalist.