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Stengel made baseball fun

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Casey's corner
By Nick Acocella
Special to

Signature Game
Oct., 1923 - In the first World Series game ever played at Yankee Stadium, between the Giants and Yankees, the mighty Casey strode to the plate with two outs in the top of the ninth inning with Game 1 tied at 4-4. On a full count, Stengel smashed a fastball from Yankees reliever Joe Bush on a line to left-center.

Stengel muttered encouragement to his sore legs even as one shoe came unlaced as he rounded second base. Leftfielder Bob Meusel finally retrieved the ball at the wall and threw to the relay man, whose throw home skipped past catcher Wally Schang as Stengel slid in safely, bounced up on one knee, and, as James Harrison of the New York Times wrote, "waved a hand in a comical gesture that seemed to say, 'Well, there you are.'"

The Yankees were retired in the ninth, and Casey's inside-the-park homer, the first postseason homer at Yankee Stadium, had given the Giants a 5-4 victory.

Two days later, Stengel won Game 3 for the Giants with another homer. This time, his seventh-inning drive went into the rightfield bleachers, giveing the Giants a 1-0 victory. It was the first postseason homer into the stands at Yankee Stadium.

These were the only two games the Giants won as the Yankees captured their first world championship, taking the Series in six games.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Stengel is the only baseball figure to wear the uniforms of all four New York franchises of the 20th century.

  • In 1911, Stengel hit .352 for Aurora to wins the Class C Wisconsin-Illinois League batting title.

  • In his major league debut, Stengel went 4-for-4 with three steals for Brooklyn in 1912.

  • As a player, Stengel did his best work in the postseason, hitting .393 (11-for-28) in three Series including .417 in 1923.

  • Stengel continued to play part-time into the 1927 season. Though he hit just .176 in 18 games for Toledo, he delivered an 11th inning pinch-hit grand slam to win a game.

  • Just before Opening Day in 1943, Stengel, who was managing the Boston Braves, was hit by a taxi and missed the first two months of the season with a broken leg. The incident prompted Boston columnist Dave Egan to nominate the cab driver as the man who did the most for Boston baseball that year.

  • The Sporting News named Stengel the 1948 Minor League Manager of the Year after his Oakland Oaks won the Pacific Coast League pennant.

  • The baseball bible also named him Major League Manager of the Year in 1949, 1953 and 1958.

  • In 1949, his first season at the helm of the Yankees, Stengel juggled lineups to compensate for 71 injuries. He platooned at most positions and used seven first basemen. Only shortstop Phil Rizzuto had more than 450 at-bats.

  • Stengel also juggled pitchers as deftly as he did position players. In 1951, when Allie Reynolds led the American League in shutouts with seven, he also had seven saves in 14 relief appearances.

  • Although Stengel went out of his way to declare Joe DiMaggio the best player he ever managed, he got owner Dan Topping to persuade the centerfielder to move to first base in 1950. The experiment lasted one game.

  • Stengel also dropped DiMaggio from cleanup to fifth in the batting order, and sat him down for a "rest" without discussing the move with the future Hall of Famer.

  • Even though Mickey Mantle became the jewel in Stengel's crown, the centerfielder had to endure the manager's constant barbs for a perceived disparity between his potential and his productivity.

  • Sport Magazine named Stengel Man of the Year in 1953.

  • The only time Stengel's Yankees won more than 100 games was 1954--when they went 103-51 but finished second behind Cleveland's then AL record 111 victories.

  • A few translations of Stengelese: a "butcher boy" was a chopped ground ball, a "whiskey slick" a carouser and "the youth of America" the current crop of rookies.

  • The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Monopoly and Anti-Trust had no idea what Stengel was talking about when he delivered a vintage and hysterical dose of his private language in a July 1958 hearing on baseball's exemption from federal antitrust laws.

  • One criticism of Stengel in the 1960 World Series was that he got only two starts out of his ace lefthander, Whitey Ford. Instead of pitching Games 1, 4 and 7, Ford started only Games 3 and 6--and pitched two shutouts against Pittsburgh.

  • Stengel also had Ralph Terry warm up four times before calling for him in the eighth inning of Game 7. With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Bill Mazeroski homered to win the Series for the Pirates.

  • New York's New Breed fans relished the incompetence of the Amazin' Mets as much as they did Stengel's promotion of them. His "Can't anybody here play this game?" became almost as much of a trademark Stengel tag line as "You could look it up."

  • Stengel's No. 37 has been retired by both the Mets (1965) and Yankees (1966).

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