COULD LOOK IT UP” --CASEY STENGEL
pay. Make 'em pay you a thousand dollars. Don't go help those people
shows for coffee-and-cake money. You're the Yankees—the best. Make 'em
first met Casey Stengel in the dugout at Shea Stadium when he was the
and ring-master for the inept New York Mets.
It was early in the day and I thought he was asleep. I presented
letter that was affixed to my clipboard from a publisher for a book I
and contained the information: “Please extend all professional
Dr. Harvey Frommer
read it and then exclaimed: “I am extending – here is my arm, my
other unmentionables). Casey also noticed the letter reference to “Dr.”
said I need a doctor.” Pointing at various parts of his body he
hurts and this hurts, that hurts.”
am not that kind of doctor,’ I told him. “I am a Ph.D.”
didn’t you say so? Let’s get down to business.”
was a rambling 35 minutes spiced with the line “You could look it up.”
for gab and charming but a bit common personality was hypnotic. From
time representatives of the New York media appeared and he shooed them
waving his arms. “Come back later. I am with my doctor now.”
I will never forget that time spent with
Dillon Stengel, born on July 30, 1890, in Kansas City, Missouri. Now
there is a
new manager at the helm of the New York Yankees. They can come and go
one will ever match his winning record, his way with the media, his
ways with the English language.
salty Stengel seemingly was a man who had been around baseball forever.
always seemed to reincarnate himself. Back in 1912, he began in the big
playing 17 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His salary was $2100.
off piloting Oakland in the Pacific Coast League and the team of “nine
to the Pacific Coast League championship in 1948, Casey Stengel was
on October l2th at a press conference as the manager of New York
was said that he was offered the job
the recommendation of dour and business-like General
Manager George Weiss. Their friendship went back decades.
"I didn't get the job through
friendship," he said in a serious tone. "The Yankees represent an
investment of millions of dollars. Because I can make people laugh,
some of you
think I’m a damn fool. But as player,
and manager I have been around baseball for some 35 years. (He’d played
managed over 5,000 games). I’ve watched some successful managers
McGraw and Uncle Robbie work. They don't hand out jobs like this
because they like your company. I got the job because the people here
think I can
produce for them.”
new contract covered two years and was for a total of $70,000. At the
there were doubters. There were also supporters.
LOPAT: It was a shock when
Stengel was announced as the new manager. We thought we got us a clown.
spring training started in 1949, we just sat back and watched his
never said too much about anything to anyone. It was a treat for him to
us after all the donkey clubs he had. He was something. He didn't need
He knew what every hitter or pinch hitter could do against certain
could make the moves.
great sportswriter Grantland Rice
wrote: “Stengel is a high-grade manager who knows his trade.”
first Stengel Yankee season was
one that he had to cope with injuries. The famous Charlie Keller-Joe
DiMaggio-Tommy Henrich outfield was never in place. The entire season
missed by Keller while DiMaggio’s damaged heel kept him out until late
June. Phil Rizzuto missed playing time.
Coping, Stengel mixed and matched, patched in non-prime time
by game the new manager managed and led the Yankees to the first of
straight world championships.
LOPAT: When we won the World Series in 1949 and came to spring
training the next year, Stengel told us: “Last year is past history. We
look back. We gotta go back and beat ’em again this year.” We
had guys on the bench who could play as good as the starters. They
hated to get
on the bench because they knew they might not get back for three or
or ever. When we played the other teams,
we never underestimated them or ourselves. Casey’s attitude was
attitude. They would have to run us off the field, but not in the
with his wife Edna, Stengel lived
with in Manhattan’s upscale Essex House. Formerly a silent screen movie
fashion plate, Edna selected Casey’s clothes. Off season, the Stengels
a big house in Glendale, California. At times there were 50 to 75
there even though Casey and Edna had no offspring of their own. Edna’s
and nephews and the children of Yankee players and their wives were
“It was real Yankee family
then,” Yogi Berra said. “Casey and Edna were like a father and mother
The Yankee pipeline of talent
flowed in the Stengel years. There was a Stengel induced ferocious
for playing time. Organizational loyalty, Yankee pride, were the
of Stengel’s way...
hitting Gene Woodling and
right-handed hitting Hank Bauer often shared outfield duties.
"We didn't like
Bauer said. “But you couldn't complain too much—we walked into the bank
SKOWRON: Case would leave us alone to get in shape in spring
training. But when those last 10 days of spring training came around
you had to be better ready to play.
how they were ready to play. The Stengel Yankees became so successful
line “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for General Motors”
back-handed put down.
COLEMAN: Casey was a great,
great manager, probably the greatest of all. He understood his players,
they could do and what they couldn’t do. He understood the front office
they wanted from him. He understood the
media and that was vital in New York. He understood the fans – he was
SKOWRON: Sure he wasn't that young, but he knew and we knew what we had
He'd leave us alone when we were winning. He'd holler 'butcher boy' and
swing too hard at ground balls' and 'don't beat yourselves.' But when
he saw us
making mistakes, he'd get excited and do some yelling.
Always with a way with
words, with his
players, with the media, Charles Dillon Stengel was nobody’s fool and
every trick of the trade .He rode the “hot hand.” Platooning players,
deployment of pinch hitters, strange pitching match-ups, playing
hunches - -
all were part of his managerial persona.
"Casey knew his baseball,” Sparky Anderson, another top manager
said. “He only made it look like he was fooling around. He knew every
was ever invented.”
The man who for decades had
traveled through baseball’s wilderness, was generally the only one who
what the next day’s batting order would be, what the pitching rotation
LOMAX: There was no doubt that Casey was a newspaperman's best friend.
used 'Stengelese' (his own special version of double-talk) when he
to say anything. He would talk about how he met the King of England
when he and
George Kelly made a 'round-the-world tour. Case would talk you 'round
in his talks, but if you were honest with Case . . . Case would be
KUBEK: There was the Casey Stengel
who could talk for hours on the long 36 hours of train trips to Kansas
There was the sensitive Casey Stengel. There was the Casey Stengel of the Yankee pride.
KAHN: I suppose a highlight of the time
I covered the Yankees was being in the bar in the press room where
Stengel used to hang out. He had writers divided into two categories:
writers" and "the other guy."
I was one of his writers, and he would go on and on to me about
amazing streak of five straight pennants and world championships for
York Yankees began in 1949 and Casey Stengel won the “Manager of the
award. "I want to thank all these players,” he said in the clubhouse
celebration, “for giving me the greatest thrill of my life. And to
pay me for managing so great a bunch of boys."
By 1958, Stengel’s New York Yankees
were still top dog in baseball winning the pennant by 10 games. The
year, however, they finished in third place—their lowest position in
Nearing 70, impatient, he
in games that were questioned, that seemed strange even for a manager
always made some unorthodox decisions. There was another Yankee pennant
but a loss in the World Series to the Pirates on Bill Mazeroski’s walk
That ended it for the Ol
Owners Topping and Del Webb dissatisfied with Stengel for a few years,
him out. The word was that he had been let go because of a mandatory
age of 65—just for him.
“I commenced winning pennants when I
got here,” Stengel told those gathered at a press conference, “But I
commence getting any younger. They told me that my services were no
desired because they wanted to put in a youth movement as an advance
keeping the club going. The trick is growing up without growing
guys my age are dead at the present time anyway and you could look it
never make the mistake of being seventy years old
time as leader
of the New York Yankees there were 10 pennants and seven world
the greatest run by any manager ever. Only once in his dozen
his teams win fewer than 90 games; his Yankee career managing record
was 1,149-696, a winning percentage of .623.
Again the life in baseball
for Charles Dillon Stengel. He was installed and allied again with
as manager of the New York Mets. That was where I came to meet him.
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, Casey Stengel
fittingly selected as "Baseball's Greatest Manager" during the
sport's centennial. He passed away on September 29, 1975 in Glendale,
Some of the material in this
article is excerpted from his latest The Ultimate Yankee Book,
from the author or at Amazon. http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html