|Played for Brooklyn Dodgers (1912-17), Pittsburgh Pirates (1918-19), Philadelphia Phillies (1920-21), New York Giants (1921-23), Boston Braves (1924-25)
Managed Brooklyn Dodgers (1934-36), Boston Braves (1938-43), New York Yankees (1946-60), New York Mets (1962-65)
Postseason: (Player): 1916 World Series, 1922 World Series; (Manager): 1949 World Series, 1950 World Series, 1951 World Series, 1952 World Series, 1953 World Series, 1955 World Series, 1956 World Series, 1957 World Series, 1958 World Series, 1960 World Series
Batted .284 over 14 seasons as a player
Charles Dillon Stengel was born in Kansas City in 1890, or maybe 1889, or possibly even earlier, though no one knows for sure. After graduating from high school he enrolled in Western Dental College in Kansas City for two and a half years, but an Aurora, Illinois, professional team scouted and signed him, and he never did complete his studies. While playing for Aurora, Stengel was discovered by a Brooklyn Dodger scout, and after the Dodgers bought him, he joined the team a year later in 1912. He was a regular Dodger outfielder for the next five years.
....[T]hough Stengel preferred to spend his evenings on the town rather than keeping minister's hours, the rowdy outfielder always hustled and showed great desire on the field, developing an excellent reputation as an entertaining player. Some of his performances are now legendary. After he was traded from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh in 1917, he returned to Ebbets Field with the Pirates to play the Dodgers. Just before his first at bat, as the formerly Brooklyn faithful booed him as vociferously as they had once cheered him, Casey bowed low to the crowd and removed his cap, where underneath, perched on Stengel's head, was a sparrow, which flew away. Stengel had found the small bird dazed in the outfield during batting practice. He knew the Brooklyn fans were going to boo him, so he figured that if they were going to give him the bird, he would give them one in return.
Before another game with the Pirates, Stengel stood in center field, so rigid and stock-still that his manager ran out to find out what was wrong. Stengel told him that he was too weak to move because he wasn't getting paid enough to eat.
On to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1920, he was traded early in 1921 to the New York Giants, where he played under the legendary John McGraw. Under McGraw, Stengel was platooned in the outfield with Bill Cunningham, the left-handed Stengel usually batting against right-handed pitchers and the right-handed Cunningham batting against left-handed pitchers. Stengel, a lifetime .284 hitter during his fourteen-year playing career, batted .368 in 1922 and .339 in 1923 under McGraw's platoon system, and in the 1923 world series [he] hit two home runs to defeat the Yankees. Rounding the bases after hitting one of them, Stengel is remembered for giving the Yankee bench the finger, enraging Yankee owner Jake Ruppert .... Stengel finished his major league career in 1925 and retired to become the president, manager, and right fielder of the Worcester, Massachusetts, team in the Eastern League. At the end of 1925 Stengel, unhappy there, made history by giving himself his release as a player, firing himself as manager, and then quitting as president. He continued to manage in the minors until 1932 when he was hired as a Brooklyn coach, and in 1934 he was hired by the Dodgers to manage, inheriting a squad of mediocre bumblers. Stengel managed them for three seasons, finishing sixth, fifth, and seventh, and at the end of the third season, though he had another year left on a two-year contract, the Dodgers fired him, thus paying him in 1937 for not managing.
While with the Dodgers, Stengel made himself visible on the third-base coaching lines, delivering impromptu orations, conversing with the opposition, performing an occasional soft-shoe, and badgering the umpires, thus providing more entertainment than his players did. Stengel drove his players hard, and tried to instruct them, but most of them [did not] take advanage of his guidance. "Managing the team back then," Stengel would say years afterward, "was a tough business. Whenever I decided to release a guy, I always had his room searched first for a gun. You couldn't take any chances with some of them birds."
While managing Brooklyn, Stengel's most important personal gains were monetary. A teammate from Texas, Randy Moore, convinced him and three other teammates, Al Lopez, Van Lingo Mungo, and Johnny Cooney, to invest money in an east Texas oil field. Stengel's wells began gushing in 1941 and continued to do so for many lucrative years afterward. A Dodger stockholder also touted Stengel on a firm that was beginning to produce the new miracle drug called penicillin. He made a killing. He was becoming almost as wealthy as his wife, Edna, whose father was a successful banker.
.... [i]n 1938 [Stengel] signed a contract to manage the Boston Braves, another collection of ragtags and has-beens. Again he became the center of attraction in order to divert the minds of the fans from the poor quality of baseball being played. One dreary, rainy afternoon Stengel appeared on the field to exchange the lineup cards with the umpires wearing a raincoat and holding an umbrella in one hand and a lantern in the other. It was classic Stengel, and most of the writers loved him for his antics, his colorful stories, and his congeniality....
"For us," wrote Boston sportswriter Harold Kaese, "it was more fun losing with Stengel than winning with a hundred other managers." .... In his six years in Beantown, Stengel's Braves finished fifth, seventh, seventh, seventh, seventh, and sixth. When he was accidentally struck down by a cab in the spring of '43, breaking his leg and missing the first two months of the season, Boston Record writer Dave Egan voted the cabdriver "the man who did the most for Boston in 1943." At the end of the year Stengel was released, traveling to Milwaukee where he won the American Association pennant in '44, to Kansas City, where he impressed Yankee owner Del Webb, and to Oakland where he won the pennant in '48. [Yankee General Manager George] Weiss's first and only choice as a replacement for [Bucky] Harris was Stengel. This was a man Weiss trusted, a man he could work with, a man who would work with the younger players, and the perfect buffer to keep the press from the shy and private general manager.
When the announcement of his appointment was made at a press conference, Stengel was unusually serious and close-mouthed. He knew he was on the spot because of the firing of the popular Harris and because of his own tarnished reputation. "I didn't get this job," he said in a low, gravelly voice, "through friendship. The Yankees represent an investment of millions of dollars. 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."
Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964
Under [Stengel's] leadership from ... [f]rom 1949 to 1964, the [Yankees] won fourteen pennants and nine world championships. Only once in his dozen seasons did his teams win fewer than ninety games; his Yankee career managing record was 1,149-696, a winning percentage of .623.
.... Stengel's managerial method included riding players when they were doing well, panning them at other times. Platooning players became a Stengel managing trademark, as did using pinch hitters at unusual times.
Left-handed-hitting Gene Woodling and right-handed-hitting Hank Bauer shared outfield duties. "We didn't like it," Bauer said. "But you couldn't complain too much -- we walked into the bank every October."
.... "Sure he wasn't that young," [Bill] Skowron said. "But he knew and we knew what we had to do. He'd leave us alone when we were winning. He'd holler 'butcher boy' and 'don't 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."
The Yankees took the 1958 pennant by ten games. The 1959 Yankees finished in third place, their low point in Stengel's time as manager. There were some who thought it was the beginning of the end. Nearing seventy, impatient, Casey made moves in games that seemed highly unorthodox even for him.
But in 1960 in a tough pennant race, the Ole Perfessor rallied the Yankees to another flag. But Bill Mazeroski's walk-off homer gave the world championship to Pittsburgh.
Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb, anxious to get rid of Stengel, used the defeat by the Pirates as an excuse. Casey was fired.
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, Casey Stengel was fittingly selected as Baseball's Greatest Manager during the sport's centennial.
"Casey was a great, great manager, probably the greatest of all," mused Jerry Coleman. "He understood his players, what they could do and what they couldn't do. He understood the front office -- what they wanted from him. He understood the media and that was vital in New York. He understood the fans -- he was a great communicator. You don't forget a man like Casey."
-- Harvey Frommer
A Yankee Century
.... For several years Webb and Topping were anxious to replace him before some other club snatched Ralph Houk away from the New York affiliate in Denver. Their opportunity came after the team's 1960 World Series loss to Pittsburgh, when Stengel was criticized heavily for getting only two starts out of his ace [Whitey] Ford and for getting Ralph Terry up in the bullpen four times before finally calling him in to serve up Bill Mazeroski's decisive home run in the final game. Two days after the Series Stengel officially "retired," while putting up no pretense that it had been his idea. "I'll never make the mistake of being 70 again," he complained.
Two years later [George] Weiss, in his new role as president of the embryonic Mets, hired Stengel to manage the expansion team, making him the only one to wear the uniforms of all four 20th-century New York clubs. Stengel's task was less to direct the sorry collection of veterans that compiled one of the worst records in the history of baseball than to promote his Amazin' Mets has better entertainment than the Bronx club he had just left. For nearly four years hardly a day went by without the sports page reporting some bizarre or bizarrely stated observation from him on the miserable state of his squad. The brilliance of his public relations performance endeared the incompetent Mets to The New Breed fans, who relished the incompetence almost as much as its promotion. "Can't anybody here play this game?" became as much a trademark Stengel line as "You could look it up." He ended up wisecracking his way through three 10th-place finishes and part of another.
....In 1965 a broken wrist forced the 74-year-old manager to turn the club over to coach Wes Westrum temporarily. Then in late July, after a banquet the night before an Old Timers Game, another fall fractured his hip. Everybody but the Mets players were sorry about the announcement of his retirement. Stengel lived for more than a decade after returning to his California home in Glendale. The inscription on his tombstone is one of his most quoted lines: "There comes a time in every man's life, and I've had plenty of them."
-- Dewey & Acocella
The New Biographical History of Baseball
"Casey Stengel was never a good manager until he got to the Yankees, where he came to be regarded as one of the greatest managers in history. He got accolades he didn't deserve because the press loved him -- he'd tell stories and go on and on in his Stengelese, talking for hours and never saying a thing. I told him I could manage his team just by sitting in the office. In fact, he never made decisions. His coaches Frank Crosetti and Jim Turner ran the Yankees. Turner was a great student of pitching and was out in the bullpen, and Crosetti was at third base giving the signs. Stengel was in the idea not having any idea what was going on. When he would make a decision, it was usually wrong. But he had two ballclubs on the Yankees. He could play either one and win."
We Played the Game
"There were a lot of field managers as good as Casey, but Casey was better than other managers at understanding his players' attitudes. He figured out how to stir us up so that we were so angry -- and I wanted to kill him sometimes -- that we'd go out and beat the other team's fanny. He could handle 25 temperamental guys. This was an important part of managing. I couldn't argue with success. I know he made me a better ballplayer.
"Stengel was a leader. All that fun stuff was for the press and fans, but he was a tough man to play for. You didn't horse around with him. He was all business. Which isn't to say he wasn't compassionate. You could go to him with problems .... One spring training we all had our families at the beach and the writers were accusing Casey of running a country club. He let them do it for a week before calling them together and saying, 'I thought you guys were smart. You say I'm running a country club because I let them bring their families to Florida. But for some reason I never have to worry about my ballplayers at night. I know where they are ....'"
-- Gene Woodling
We Played the Game