Who was Casey Stengel?
Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel was an American Major League Baseball manager, often regarded as the most successful manager of the game for all time. He was well known for his sense of humour, sharp wit, and deep knowledge about everything related to baseball which earned him the nickname ‘The Old Professor’. Over his long and productive career he was associated with a number of teams and cities, though he gained more success with the clubs in New York. Before becoming a manager he used to play baseball and had compiled a batting average of .284 over 14 seasons in the National League. First as a player, and then as a manager he became the only man to have worn four of New York’s major league club’s uniforms. As a young boy he had a happy childhood, spent playing sandlot baseball. He played various sports including baseball, football and basketball during his high school days. Though he had no aspirations of becoming a sportsman; he dreamed of becoming a dentist. However, he found dentistry training a struggle and focused his efforts on playing baseball instead. He started playing as an outfielder and post his playing career he became an even more successful manager, most notable for managing the New York Yankees.
Childhood & Early Life
Casey's father was an insurance agent and Casey was one of the three children. His family descended from German and Irish immigrants. He had a happy and comfortable childhood.
Athletically inclined, the youngster played various sports like baseball, football and basketball during his time at Central High School. He aspired to become a dentist and was not really interested in making a career as a professional sportsperson.
He used to play minor league baseball in order to save for his training as a dentist. He struggled during his dentistry training and decided to focus his energies on playing baseball. He became a successful minor league player.
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He started playing professional baseball when he was 19. He joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1912 and proved to be a great addition to the team when he finished the season with a .316 batting average.
His amazing performances continued over the next three seasons as he continued to bat for Brooklyn. He also exhibited excellent leadership skills and was a naturally gifted player. He helped his team win the National League in 1916.
He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for whom he played 39 games during 1918-19. He then went to the U.S. Navy where he coached the baseball program at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He returned to the Pirates but was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies who in turn traded him to the New York Giants.
He played for the Giants from 1921 to 1923 during which he scored a batting average of .368 and .339 during the 1922 and 1923 seasons, respectively. He helped the Giants win the World Series in 1922.
His first stint as a manager came in 1925 when he became a player-manager of the Worcester Panthers. He was also the team president. He shifted to manage the Toledo Mud Hens in 1926 and helped the team to its first ever pennant. However, the team went bankrupt in 1931 and he was out of a job.
He returned to Dodgers as a coach and became its manager in 1934. He was with them for three seasons but never finished higher than fifth. He was freed from the contract in 1936.
He managed the Boston Braves from 1938 to 1943 but there also he could not find much success.
After managing minor teams like Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland Oaks, he came into the notice of the New York Yankees who were looking for a new manager. He was hired as their manager in 1949.
He had a very productive time with the Yankees and helped them win a record number of championships. He led them to an amazing haul of five consecutive World series Championships from 1949–1953.
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He guided the Yankees to two more World Championships in 1956 and 1958, and five American League Pennants. He was much respected for his leadership qualities and for his employment of sharp tactics in positioning the players.
His employment with the Yankees ended in 1960 after his team lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was requested to manage the highly incompetent team, New York Mets, which h accepted in 1962. Even though the team continued its dismal performance under Stengel, it acquired the reputation of being a “lovable loser”. He retired in 1965.
He is best known for his stint as the manager of the New York Yankees whom he guided to five straight world championships, helping them win 10 pennants in 12 seasons. He also had a considerably successful playing career having played in three World Series.
Awards & Achievements
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 and into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1981.
He was named ‘The Greatest Character of The Game’ in an awards segment on the MLB Network titled ‘The Prime 9’ in 2009. He was given the award not just for his on-field contributions and antics, but also for his off-field contributions to the community.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Edna Lawson in 1924. The couple remained happily married for 51 years till Casey’s death in 1975.
He was a friendly and funny person who made everyone around him laugh. He was a master publicist who did everything in his control to promote his teams.
He was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph glands in September 1975 and died within days of the diagnosis.
The Casey Stengel Plaza outside Shea Stadium was named after him.