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Remembering Casey Stengel:  The Complex Two Headed Casey

Part III

 

 


Casey Stengel

For those Yankee lovers and Yankee haters and all those in between who have responded to my first two pieces on Charles Dillon Stengel, for you to enjoy and write to me about is another in the series.  

Sparing no one including himself, Casey Stengel was equally at ease using the back of his hand or the glad hand. Not unduly concerned about hurting a player's (or anyone else’s feelings) by a sarcastic or sharp criticism even in front of others, Stengel picked his times.

  When the club was losing, he was muted. He even praised players when they were not doing well. When the Yankees were winning, he became almost intolerably edgy, riding his players, trying to prevent a let-down.

“They know when they're losin' and feel bad enough. But they'd better not fall asleep on me when they think everything is going la-de-dah,” he’d say

He was hardest on the top talent like Mickey Mantle. Tolerance was reserved for those with lesser ability. He did not hesitate to replace these players as soon as he could. But he also would not denigrate them when they were on the scene, not much. 

“Look at him,” Stengel said of Bobby Richardson. “He doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke, he doesn't chew, he doesn't stay out late, and he still can't hit .250. They say some of my stars drink whiskey, but I have found that ones who drink milkshakes don't win many ball games.”

One time, he went to the mound to remove a pitcher.

"I'm not tired," said the annoyed hurler.

 "I'm tired of you," Stengel replied.

He sat down next to Bob Cerv in the Yankee dugout: "Nobody knows this, but one of us has just been traded to Kansas City."

Charley Murdock, an announcer for Radio Station WRVA in Richmond, Virginia came in with a tape recorder. "Mr. Stengel, "I'd like to tape an interview with you and Mantle and a couple of other players for a sports show. Fifty thousand watts, sir."

"Ask the players," barked Casey, "Don't ask me. I got no time for broadcasting. I'm managing a ball club here."

A Boston writer asked him: "What was the idea of firing Rizzuto on Old Timer's day? There's been a lot of editorial comment about that here in Boston."

Stengel gave him the full response treatment. “You're entitled to your opinion, But I'll tell you this. I needed an outfielder which when I saw the chance to get Slaughter I took it. It was his first time around on waivers and you don't think I'd have got him the second time around, do you? Also, I got four outfielders hurt, Cerv, Collins, Siebern, and Noren. If anything happens to Mantle, what happens to me then? Also you got to remember Hunter comes through pretty good at short so I don't need Rizzuto. Now wait a minute, wait a minute here.”

The legendary Roger Kahn covered the Yankees for a time and got a close look at Casey in action. “We flew back from Milwaukee after the Braves had taken games four and five of the 1957 World Series,” the noted author said. ” I was with Stengel at the Stadium and a guy from WPIX-TV put a microphone in his face and asked: ‘Did your guys choke up out there?’

“And Stengel said: ‘Do you choke up on that fucking microphone?’

“And then he turned around, dropped his pants, scratched his buttocks and kept talking.  Later Stengel explained to me: ‘We've gotta put a stop to them terrible questions. When I said ‘Fuck' I ruined his audio and when I scratched my ass I ruined his video."

Players had mixed feelings about Stengel. Clubhouse meetings could last an hour or more with Casey motor-mouthing it non-stop.

“He confused a lot of players,” Rizzuto said. “He 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.”                                 

ABOUT CASEY STENGEL

  • "There were things that would irritate Casey, but trying too hard or getting mad at sitting on the bench weren't among them." - Mickey Mantle

  • "Watch the old man. Watch how the old man keeps the guys who aren't playing happy." (Billy Martin to Mantle on Casey Stengel)

  • “After a play in the field Casey would turn (to the players on the bench) and say 'What did he do wrong?' or 'You're better than that guy.' Either way, he'd keep them from getting stale." – Billy Martin

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Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan and It Happened in Miami , they preach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

As travel writers and food critics, they have published hundreds of articles in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet. Their interest in the intermingling of past and present in Jewish communities around the world has led to a body of work whose locales range from New Delhi to Istanbul to Sicily.

Accomplished and charismatic public speakers, the Frommers have appeared before live audiences and on the media throughout the United States lecturing on their books and travel experiences.

Harvey Frommer is an acclaimed sports journalist and historian, the author of 43 books on sports including the autobiographies of legends like Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman. He also authored the highly notable sports oral histories Remembering Yankee Stadium, Remembering Fenway Park and When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl.

Myrna Katz Frommer is a poet and contributor to such publications as The Forward, Ha'aretz, The New York Times, and The Encyclopedia of Jewish Women.

You can contact the Frommers at: myrna.frommer@dartmouth.edu, harvey.frommer@dartmouth.edu

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2016 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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