In a sport famous for its colorful characters, Casey Stengel was one of a kind. Stengel was an imaginative prankster who told stories and possessed one of the greatest baseball minds of all time. Stengel was just as likely to fake a faint at an umpire’s call as he was to call a tight play in a critical situation to win a ball game.
From his teens to his final days as manager of the New York Mets, Stengel lived his entire life in baseball. Along the way, he was an above-average major league player for 12 seasons and the most successful manager to complete a scorecard. However, it wasn’t just his success that won the adoration of millions, but his lovable personality that won them over. The warmth, toughness of him and the unforgettable monologues of him that made him the most beloved 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 block” meaning a lousy baseball player. A true legend, the likes of Casey Stengel, the wise clown of baseball, will never be seen in sports again.
How good was Stengel? In a 12-year career with the New York Yankees, Casey won 1,149 games (compared to just 696 losses), won 10 pennants and 7 world series championships. Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack once said of Stengel, “I never saw a man play so many hunches so successfully.”
Casey Stengel was not only known as an eccentric yet lovable coach, he was also known as a coach who stood by his players. Elston Howard (the first black player signed by the Yankees) credited Stengel with helping him overcome racial barriers. Casey Stengel told hotel managers that if Howard wasn’t welcome in his establishment, he wouldn’t let any of the Yankees players stay there either.