In a sport famous for its colorful characters, Casey Stengel was one of a kind. Stengel was an imaginative, story telling jokester who possessed one of the finest baseball minds ever. Stengel was just as likely to fake a fainting spell over an umpire’s call as he was to call a squeeze play in a critical situation to win a ball game.
From his teenage years to his last days as manager of the New York Mets, Stengel lived his entire life in baseball. Along the way he was an above average big league player for 12 seasons and the most successful manager to ever fill out a scorecard. However, it wasn’t just his success that earned the adoration of millions, it was his lovable personality that won them over. His warmth, toughness, and his unforgettable monologues that made him the most loved character since Babe Ruth. Some of the expressions that became part of baseball lore include “worm killers,” meaning low balls, “plumber,” meaning a good fielder and “road apple,” meaning a lousy baseball player. A true legend, the likes of Casey Stengel, the wise clown of baseball, will never be seen again in sports.
Just how good was Stengel? In a 12 year run with the New York Yankees Casey won 1,149 game (compared to only 696 losses), won 10 pennants and 7 world series championships. Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack once said about Stengel, “I never saw a man who played so many hunches so successfully.”
Not only was Casey Stengel known as an eccentric, yet lovable manager, he was also known as a manager that stood behind his players. Elston Howard (the first black player ever signed by the Yankees) credited Stengel with helping him overcome racial barriers. Casey Stengel would tell hotel managers that if Howard wasn’t welcome at their establishments, then he wouldn’t allow any of the Yankee players to stay there as well.