Stengel, Casey

views updated Jun 11 2018

Casey Stengel


American baseball manager

Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel is a legendary figure in baseball, as well known for his comedic talent and long-winded, convoluted way of speaking, called "Stengelese," as for his gift for managing some of the best and worst baseball teams in U.S. history. He led the New York Yankees to ten American League pennants and seven World Series championships between 1949 and 1960, working with such superstars as Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra , Whitey Ford, and Roger Maris . Stengel started the Yankees' "instructional school," a training camp that soon came to be emulated by other major league teams. He also developed an intricate system of "platooning" his players to get the most from his roster. At age 72, two years after the Yankees let him go, he took on the management of the newly created New York Mets. Although the team won only 194 games and lost 452 during Stengel's four years as manager, the bumbling new team drew many fans to the stadium, thanks to Stengel's sense of humor and ability to entertain a crowd. After a lifetime in baseball, "the Old Perfesser," as Stengel had come to be known, retired at age 75 after he suffered a broken hip. The Baseball Writers Association of America voted to waive the five-year waiting period and named Stengel to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.

Young Athlete

Charles Dillon Stengel was born July 30, 1890, the son of Louis E. Stengel, an insurance salesman of German ancestry, and Jennie Jordan Stengel, of Irish family background. He had an older brother, Grant, and an older sister, Louise. The family was closely knit and happy, and their neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri, was upper middle class. Charley Stengel was a three-sport athlete in high school and pitched for his state-championship-winning team in 1909. The following year, at age 20, he signed with the Kansas City Blues, a top minor league team.

In 1911, after a short time in dental school, he went to Aurora, Chicago, with the Blues and led the league in stolen bases, catching the eye of a scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1912 the Dodgers drafted him and sent him to Montgomery, Alabama, under the tutelage of 37-year-old shortstop Kid Elberfeld, who told Stengel: "If you're going to be a big leaguer, act like a big leaguer."

"Casey at the Bat"

Stengel was soon called up to Brooklyn to play. Because he talked so much about Kansas City, he earned the nickname "K.C.," which became "Casey" after Ernest Thayer's popular poem "Casey at the Bat." By 1914 the press had passed the nickname on to all the fans. During this period, Stengel also earned another nickname that would stick with him in later years. After helping coach the University of Mississippi team, Stengel rejoined the Dodgers so full of campus stories that his teammates began calling him "Professor."

Wilbert Robinson became manager of the Dodgers in 1915, and they played at the newly built Ebbets Field, where Stengel became an expert on the caroms off the angled concrete wall at right field. Always a lover of practical jokes, Stengel was suspected in a prank at Daytona Beach in which aviator Ruth Law was supposed to fly over the field and drop a baseball for Robinson to catch. By some mix-up the ball became a grapefruit; Robinson thought he had been killed when the fruit hit his chest, splattering red pulp.

Stengel played fairly regularly for the Dodgers, sometimes finding himself subject to "platooning," a system of playing a roster to best advantage by shifting players' positions. He was a fast outfielder and a strong hitter, batting .364 for Brooklyn in the 1916 World Series. However, he was traded in 1918 to the Pittsburgh Pirates and sat on the bench for two seasons.

Clown and Hero

During a Pirates game against the Dodgers in 1919, Stengel entertained the fans with what became a famous stunt. While sitting in the dugout he acquired a sparrow and put it under his cap. At bat, he tipped his cap to the crowd, releasing the bird and delighting the fans. In 1920, after he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, he repeated the trick, among other antics, including popping up from a manhole to catch a fly ball. In 1921, Stengel was traded to the New York Giants, where he would play for John McGraw, his greatest teacher and the manager by whom Stengel would set his standards in the future.

In the 1923 World Series, played in New York's brand new Yankee Stadium, Stengel hit two game-winning home runsthe first World Series homers hit in the stadium. In Game One, he hit a home run in the ninth inning, winning the game for the Giants over the Yankees, 5-4. After he loped around the bases, he attracted numerous comments from sports writers about his gait. They speculated on everything from age-related stiffness to a broken leg. However, according to Stengel biographer Robert W. Creamer, what really happened was that a rubber pad placed in one of Stengel's shoes to ease a bruised heel had shifted, causing him to think his shoe was coming off. In the third game of the Series, Stengel hit the only home run of the game, slamming the ball into the bleachers.

Shifting Ball Clubs

Over the next twenty-five years, Stengel moved from team to team, first as a player and then as a coach and manager. At the end of the 1923 season he was traded to the Boston Braves, then called the Bees, and played right field throughout 1924. During that year he married Edna Lawson, an accountant from Glendale, California, whom he had met at a baseball game. They made their home in Glendale and had no children. In 1925 Stengel retired as a player. In 1926 he began managing the Toledo Mud Hens, in the minor leagues. The team went bankrupt in 1931 and Stengel lost his job, but the Brooklyn Dodgers hired him as coach the same year. In 1934 he took over management of the Dodgers, but they fired Stengel during the World Series of 1936, with one year left on his contract. The blow was eased by a large farewell dinner given to him by the sportswriters, an indication of the broad popularity he had gained. According to Creamer, Giants coach Steve Owens remarked, "This must be the first time anyone was given a party for being fired."

In 1938 Stengel was named manager of the Boston Bees but was let go after six years, when the team never finished higher than fifth place. He became manager of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1944, but he left the team in 1945 and took over at Kansas City and then Oakland, California, from 1946 through 1948. At Oakland, Stengel had a chance to tutor the young Billy Martin , who would later play for him with the New York Yankees.

Managing the Yankees

When old friend and admirer George Weiss, who had taken over general management of the New York Yankees, called on Stengel to manage the team in 1949, he accepted, saying at a press conference, "This is a big job, fellows, and I barely have had time to study it. In fact, I scarcely know where I am at." Conservative Yankee business staffers winced when the press ran a photo of Stengel in a Yankee uniform holding a baseball and gazing at it as though it were a crystal ball. Stengel, taking on the biggest challenge of his life at age 59, led the Yankees to a World Series championship his first season as manager and followed that with four more consecutive world championships. Under Stengel, the Yankees had seven wins in ten World Series over a twelve-year period.

Stengel's instructional school, first held in 1951, soon became a Yankee institution that was copied by the other major league teams. The young Mickey Mantle was Stengel's protégé. Stengel is said to have built his team around the powerhouse hitter and lightning-fast runner, along with Berra and Ford. With such superstars as DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto also on the team, Stengel developed the art of platooning to its highest form. In 1953 the Yankees won eighteen straight games, just one short of the American League record.


1890Born July 30 in Kansas City, Missouri, to Louis E. and Jennie
1908-09Plays semipro baseball with the Kansas City Red Sox
1910Signs a contract to play with the Kansas City Blues Brooklyn Dodgers
1910-11Tries dental school but drops out
1912Is drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers and becomes the protégé of
1913Hits the first home run in Ebbets Field
1913-14Is given nickname "Casey" by Dodgers teammates
1915Wilbert Robinson takes over as manager of Brooklyn Dodgers; the place infamous "grapefruit drop" occurs at Daytona Beach
1916Hits .364 in the World Series for Brooklyn first place in the minor leagues
1918Is traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates
1919In a game against former teammates the Brooklyn Dodgers, tips
1919Is traded to the Philadelphia Phillies of Weiss, then Yankees general manager
1921Is traded to the New York Giants
1922Plays with the Herb Hunter All-Americans on their tour of the Far East; first team of major leaguers to play a Chinese team and first to lose a game in Japan.
1923Becomes a hero for the Giants in the World Series, hitting two game-winning home runs, the first World Series home runs ever
1923Is traded to the Boston Braves
1924Marries accountant Edna Lawson and sets up home in Glendale,
1925Retires as a player and takes first managerial job, at Worcester season ends, in Glendale, California
1926Takes over as manager of Toledo Mud Hens; they win first Jordan Stengel championship in 1927
1931Mud Hens team goes bankrupt; Stengel is hired as coach for
1934Signs contract to manage Dodgers
1936Is fired by Dodgers after three losing seasons shortstop Kid Elberfeld
1938Becomes manager of the Boston Bees (later Braves)
1943Is hit by a taxi, fracturing a leg, an injury that never properly heals
1944Is fired as manager of Bees after team finishes no higher than fifth
1944Takes over as manager of Milwaukee Brewers and leads them to
1945Becomes manager at Kansas City
1946Takes over management of the Oakland Oaks, under general his hat when he comes up to bat and a sparrow flies out, to the manager George Weiss delight of the crowd
1949Takes managerial reins of New York Yankees on recommendation
1951Establishes first "instructional school" for Yankees
1958Testifies before Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly, giving a forty-five minute monologue in Stengelese that leaves senators confused and laughing
1960Is let go by the Yankees, at age 70 hit in Yankee Stadium
1962Becomes manager of newly created New York Mets
1965Retires after suffering broken hip
1966Is named to Baseball Hall of Fame California
1975Dies of lymphatic cancer on September 29, the day after baseball

The Yankees renewed Stengel's contract in 1954, and he became a baseball legend when his team won pennants for the next four years and again took the World Series title in 1956 and 1958. Continually in the newspapers and on television, Stengel became as well known as his players, as the world chuckled and scratched its head over his "Stengelese." On July 9, 1958, Stengel, Mantle, and a few others were called to testify before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly in Washington, D.C. The Senate was considering a popular bill that would exempt professional baseball and other sports from certain antitrust restrictions and wanted a hearing on the bill before taking a vote. Asked to briefly give his background and his views on the legislation, Stengel delivered a forty-five-minute monologue that repeatedly filled the room with laughter. When Stengel was finished, Mantle was asked for his opinion on the bill. He said, "My views are about the same as Casey's."

In 1960, Stengel suffered chest pains and spent some time in the hospital but soon returned to the Yankees. However, the team had finished third in 1959 and lost the World Series to Pittsburgh in 1960. The Yankees let Stengel go, with a $160,000 profit-sharing payoff. Stengel told a crowd of reporters, "Write anything you want. Quit, fired, whatever you please." He also quipped, "I'll never make the mistake of being seventy again."

Managing the Amazin' Mets

In 1962, at age 72, Stengel was called on to manage the new Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York, better known as the Mets. On accepting the position, Stengel said, "Most people my age are dead at the present time." Drumming up support for his new team, he announced, "Come see my amazin' Mets!" and the name stuck. The 1962 Mets became known as the worst baseball club in history. Stengel said, "I been in this game a hundred years but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before." In spite of their losses, Stengel kept up the humor, and the Mets drew ever larger crowds to the rundown Polo Grounds, where they played. Near the end of the 1962 season, some 923,000 fans filled the park, a very respectable number when compared to the 1.5 million drawn by the Yankees. Before their final home game, the Mets carried placards onto the field spelling out "We Love You Mets Fans Too," and Stengel ran to the end of the line with an exclamation point. Stengel stayed with the Mets until 1965, when he broke his hip and was forced to retire, at age 75. Four years later, the Mets won the pennant, after winning 100 games.

In 1966 the Baseball Writers Association of America met in secret and elected Stengel to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Thrilled with the honor, he said, "This Hall of Fame thing is bigger than anything I ever saw."

Baseball Legend

Stengel spent some of his retirement years at work in a Glendale bank, with a sign on his desk that read "Stengelese Spoken Here." In the fall of 1975, as he lay in a hospital bed watching baseball on television, he reportedly got to his feet one last time to stand at attention as they played the national anthem, with his right hand over his heart. He died of a form of lymphatic cancer on Monday, September 29, 1975, the day after the baseball season ended. He was 85. His funeral was delayed until the following Monday so that baseball people could travel to attend. According to Creamer, the best tribute was paid before the services began, as chuckles and giggles rose throughout the church: his friends and colleagues were telling stories about him.

Career Statistics

BRO: Brooklyn Dodgers; BSN: Boston Braves (then Bees); NYG: New York Giants; PHI: Philadelphia Phillies; PIT: Pittsburgh Pirates.

Baseball was Casey Stengel's life. A talented player and manager and a delightful comic, he was loved by players, fans, and the press. His teams won 1,905 games and lost 1,842. He led the New York Yankees to some of their greatest victories and nurtured the New York Mets through their greatest defeats. He played for, managed, and taught many other legendary figures in baseball and set a number of records himself, including the most World Series games managed (63) and won (37). The Stengel legend has lived on through the work of his many biographers and through the baseball institutions he helped to establish.

Stengel: His Life and Times

On March 8 [1966], a few days after he had arrived in Florida, the Mets asked Casey to come out to the spring training field to take part in a ceremony. The sportswriters were giving a plaque to George Weiss, he was told, and they wanted Casey to make the presentation. They told him to bring Edna along, too. Stengel, wielding his cane, limped onto the field and walked with surprising quickness toward the clubhouse. He had on street clothes but wore a Mets baseball cap. As he reached the clubhouse he was surrounded by writers and photographers, and he saw TV cameras, and he began to suspect something. The Commissioner of Baseball, General William Eckert, was on the field, and so was Ford Frick, Eckert's predecessor and a member of the Hall of Fame committee.

The Met players stopped practicing and gathered around. The small crowd of spectators who had come to watch practice crowded closer to the chain-link fence that kept them off the field. Frick began to speak. He explained the eligibility rule and the fact that it had been waived and said a special vote had been held and Stengel had been elected to Cooperstown.

Casey, holding his cap in his hand, bowed his head quickly, then waved his cap, and everyone applauded. Edna kissed him. Casey was grinning, his wrinkled face beaming, looking, as Cannon wrote, very young. He stepped to the microphone.

That summer he and Edna went to Cooperstown for his formal induction to the Hall of Fame. He said, "I want to thank everybody. I wantto thank some of the owners who were amazing to me, and those big presidents of the leagues who were so kind to me when I was obnoxious." He thanked his parents and he thanked George Weiss, "who would find out whenever I was discharged and would reemploy me." Casting back over his half century in baseball, he encapsulated his career in one brief sentence: "I chased the balls that Babe Ruth hit."

Source: Creamer, Robert W. Stengel: His Life and Times. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984, pp. 314-315.

Awards and Accomplishments

1949-53, 1956, 1958Won World Series and American League pennant as manager of New York Yankees
1949-60Set records, including most years as a championship manager in the American League (10); most consecutive first-place finishes (5); most World Series games managed (63); and most World Series games won (37)
1955, 1957, 1960Won American League pennant as manager of New York Yankees
1966Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame


(With Harry Paxton) Casey at the Bat: The Story of My Life in Baseball, Random House, 1961.



Creamer, Robert W. Stengel: His Life and Times. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984.

Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 19. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999.

Koppett, Leonard. The Man in the Dugout: Baseball's Top Managers and How They Got That Way. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000.


"Dustbin." Sporting News (November 6, 2000): 8.

Frayne, Trent. "'The Lovable Old Perfesser.'" Maclean's (May 11, 1992): 50.

Herzog, Bob. "World Series 2001: Managing the Dynasty; The Stengel Era." Newsday (October 25, 2001): H11.

Noble, Marty. "NY Fell in Love with Casey's Born Losers." Newsday (March 26, 2002): E17.

Olson, Stan. "Baseball's All-time Worst Team? '62 Mets." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (September 15, 2001): K2642.

Rushin, Steve. "Bad beyond Belief." Sports Illustrated (May 25, 1992): 82.


Arthurs, Al. "Casey Stengel," Baseball (September 19, 2002).

"Casey Stengel Statistics," (September 19, 2002).

Sketch by Ann H. Shurgin

Casey Stengel

views updated May 21 2018

Casey Stengel

Baseball's clown genius, Casey Stengel (1890-1975) was known as much for his hilarious double-talk ashe was for managing the New York Yankees and Mets. Nicknamed "The Old Perfessor," Stengel hid afierce competitive drive behind his practical jokesand rambling monologues. His 14-year playing career was overshadowed by his 25-year career managing some of the best and worst teams in history.

When Yankees owner George Weiss picked Casey Stengel to take over as manager in 1948, reporters ridiculed his choice. During Stengel's playing days, he was known more for his antics than his baseball acumen. In nine years managing the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves, his teams had nine losing seasons. But Weiss's choice proved inspired. Stengel became the most popular and influential manager in baseball, a star in New York City and a national celebrity. Along the way, he won more World Series games than any manager in history.

Played the Clown

Charles Dillon Stengel was the last of three children born in Kansas City, Missouri on July 30, 1890, to Jennie Jordan, a cook, and Louis E. Stengel, an insurance agent. At Central High School, he played football, basketball and baseball. A left-handed thrower, Stengel pitched and also played third base and second base, positions rarely handled by lefties.

Stengel planned to be a dentist and went to dental college in the off-season, while playing ball in the summer. After playing for the semi-pro Kansas City Red Sox in 1908 and 1909, Stengel began his professional career in 1910 as a pitcher with Kankakee, Illinois, in the Northern Association. Soon he switched to the outfield, even though he had rarely played there before. Stengel spent five years in the minor leagues, playing for four teams. Even in those early days, he was a clown. During one game at Montgomery, Alabama, in 1912, he disappeared into a drainage hole in the outfield and popped up just in time to catch a fly ball.

Stengel debuted in the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers near the end of the 1912 season. In his first game he had four hits and a walk, and in his first week he batted .478. The Sporting News exclaimed: "Charlie Stengel has come into the league with a tremendous crash, and appears to be the real thing."

Stengel soon acquired the nickname "KC" because he had grown up in Kansas City. Also at the time, the famous poem "Casey at the Bat" was a hit on the vaudeville circuit. When Stengel struck out a caustic fan might yell: "Hey, there's Casey at the bat!" From then on Stengel was Casey.

Stengel was a speedy, sometimes spectacular out-fielder. He worked hard on his fielding, coming to Ebbets Field early and bouncing balls off the right field wall to learn the caroms. He was one of the first outfielder to wear sunglasses. As a hitter, he showed occasional power but was streaky, with long slumps. "I was very erratic," Stengel said in his 1961 autobiography Casey at the Bat. "Some days I was amazing, some days I wasn't."

During much of his career Stengel was a part-time player. Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson rarely let him play against left-handed pitchers, an early example of platooning, a system Stengel would later popularize as a manager. Stengel spent six seasons with Brooklyn, including an appearance in the World Series in 1916, then two with the Pittsburgh Pirates and two more with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Stengel's antics overshadowed his abilities. Sometimes he'd draw laughs by catching easy fly balls behind his back. In 1919, Stengel was playing for Pittsburgh at Ebbets Field. He doffed his cap to the crowd and out flew a sparrow. He repeated the trick in 1920 in Philadelphia.

In 1921, Stengel was being traded to the powerhouse New York Giants. Legendary Giants manager John McGraw, a fiery, brilliant tactician, took Stengel under his wing. McGraw often used Stengel as a first-base coach and had him work with younger players. Stengel often visited McGraw's home and talked baseball.

In 1922 and 1923, Stengel hit .368 and .339 and appeared in two World Series with the Giants. He was a hero in the 1923 Series, winning the first game with a twoout, inside-the-park, ninth-inning home run and scoring the only run of the third game with a home run into the bleachers. Stengel's were the first World Series home runs ever hit in Yankee Stadium. In his three World Series games as a player, Stengel hit a robust .393.

Despite McGraw's affection for Stengel, he could see that leg injuries were slowing him. He traded his protégéto the Boston Braves. Stengel retired as a player in 1925, ending a career during which he batted .284 and averaged only 300 at-bats a season.

Ups and Downs

In 1924, Stengel married Edna Lawson, an accountant he met at a ball game in 1923. They established a home in Glendale, California, where Lawson's father was a contractor. They had no children. Stengel poured his fatherly instincts into working with hundreds of young players.

In 1925, Stengel took his first managerial job, at Worcester in the Eastern League. In 1926, he took over at Toledo, an American Association club. He managed the Mud Hens for six years, bringing the franchise its first championship in 1927, and hitting a game-winning grand slam home run as a pinch-hitter in one game. But the club faltered after that. In Toledo, Stengel had frequent run-ins with umpires. And one day he forgot to put his pants on before going on the field for pre-game practice. From then on, fans yelled, "Casey, where are your pants?"

Stengel returned to New York in 1932 as a coach for Brooklyn. He took over as manager in 1934. During his three years there, the Dodgers were a losing team, but Stengel kept the fans entertained. In 1938, Stengel began a six-year stint with the Boston Braves, but the club finished seventh four years in a row.

In 1944, Stengel returned to the minor leagues to manage Milwaukee. He took over at Kansas City in 1945, and ran the Oakland team from 1946 through 1948. All were minor-league teams in cities that later would have major-league clubs. In his autobiography, Casey at the Bat: The Story of My Life in Baseball, Stengel admitted there were "half a dozen times … that I was going to quit baseball altogether."

A Yankee Institution

Nothing in Stengel's career suggested what lay ahead when he took the helm of the Yankees in 1949. To baseball's premiere club, Stengel brought only a lackluster managerial record and a reputation for silliness. But he soon made his mark. Despite an injury which sidelined Joe DiMaggio for 65 games, Stengel brought the Yankees a world championship in his first season.

During the 12 years Stengel managed the Yankees, they appeared in ten World Series, winning seven of them. Stengel holds the record for most World Series wins by a manager, 37, and most Series games managed, 63. He became a Yankee institution, as famous as his star players, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra.

Stengel may not have invented platooning, but he popularized it. Until his Yankee days, most clubs stayed with a set lineup day in and day out. Stengel juggled lineups regularly, often playing a catcher in the outfield or an out-fielder at first base, trying to get the most out of his 25-man roster and allowing slumping or injured players to rest.

Players had mixed feelings about Stengel. Clubhouse meetings might last an hour or more, with Stengel talking non-stop. "He confused a lot of players," complained star shortstop Phil Rizzuto. He also confused reporters, but they learned to love him. With his tortured syntax that became known as "Stengelese," the beak-nosed manager made great copy. He became a national celebrity, the subject of features in popular magazines, and a legend in his own time. Stengel was a clownish philosopher who proved winning and having fun were compatible.

Stengel anecdotes are abundant. One time, Stengel went to the mound to remove a pitcher. "I'm not tired," said the pitcher. Stengel replied: "I'm tired of you." Watching Jerry Lumpe in batting practice he told reporters: "He looks like the greatest hitter in the world until you play him." Another time he sat down next to Bob Cerv and told him: "Nobody knows this, but one of us has just been traded to Kansas City."

In vintage Stengelese, he once said of a speedy, weak-hitting player: "That feller runs splendid but he needs help at the plate, which coming from the country chasing rabbits all winter gives him strong legs, although he broke one falling out of a tree, which shows you can't tell, and when a curve ball comes he waves at it, and if pitchers don't throw curves you have no pitching staff, so how is a manager going to know whether to tell boys to fall out of trees and break legs so he can run fast even if he can't hit a curve ball?"

Stengel often performed clubhouse routines, practical jokes and pantomimes, one time sliding across a Detroit hotel lobby to illustrate his game-winning 1923 Series home run. Comedian George Gobel said: "If he turned pro, he'd put us all out of business." In Casey: The Life and Legend of Charles Dillon Stengel, biographer Joseph Durso summarized Stengel as "a national figure, an average player, a controversial coach… a mixture of Santa Claus and Jimmy Durante as he duck-walked out to home plate with his lineup card."

Rizzuto said Stengel "had two tempers, one for the public and writers, and one for the players under him. The players were frequently dressed down in the dugout and clubhouse. He could charm the shoes off you, if he wanted to, but he could also be rough." Stengel had plenty of other critics, too. A frequent charge was that he "over-managed" players. Some said anybody could have won with the great Yankee clubs of the 1950s.

In 1958, Stengel testified before a United States Senate committee which was investigating baseball's anti-trust exemption. His 45-minute, 7,000-word "Stengelese" 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."

After the 1960 season, Yankee officials announced they were letting Stengel go. Club executive Dan Topping explained later: "I'm just sorry Casey isn't fifty years old… . It's best for the future to make a change." Casey said: "I'll never make the mistake of being seventy again."

Casey turned down an offer to manage the Detroit Tigers. Then, at 74, he signed a contract to manage a new team, the New York Mets. Talking about his age and his health at a press conference, he noted: "Most people my age are dead at the present time." The Mets wanted Stengel as a distraction. "The idea was that the Mets would entertain the public with a kind of Circus Maximus," Durso wrote. "The ringleader: Casey Stengel."

On taking the reins, Stengel announced: "Come see my amazin' Mets, which in some cases have only played semi-pro ball." The name stuck, and the Mets became known as the "Amazin's," because of how frequently and ingeniously they lost. During Stengel's four years, the Mets won 194 games and lost 452. The zanier and more inept the club grew, the more attendance soared. Stengel often mocked his own players. "I been in this game a hundred years but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before," he said.

After Stengel suffered a broken hip in 1965, he retired at the age of 75. His career as a baseball manager spanned 25 years and included three bad ball clubs and one great club. His teams won 1,905 games and lost 1,842. The baseball writers waived the standard five-year waiting rule and immediately elected Stengel unanimously to the Hall of Fame. Stengel died of lymphatic cancer in Glendale, California on September 29, 1975.

Further Reading

Alexander, Charles, John McGraw, Penguin, 1988.

Creamer, Robert W., Stengel: His Life and Times, Dell, 1984.

Durso, Joseph, Casey: The Life and Legend of Charles Dillon Stengel, Prentice-Hall, 1967.

McLean, Norman, Casey Stengel, Drake, 1976.

Seymour, Harold, Baseball: The Golden Age, Oxford University Press, 1971.

Stengel, Casey, and Harry Paxton, Casey at the Bat: The Story of My Life in Baseball, Random House, 1961. □

Stengel, Casey

views updated May 18 2018

Stengel, Casey ( Charles Dillon) (1890–1975) US baseball player and manager. After his playing career (1912–25), Stengel guided the Brooklyn Dodgers (1934–36) and the Boston Braves (1938–43), but found his great success with the New York Yankees (1949–60). He finished his management career with the New York Mets (1962–65). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.