Friday, August 17, 2012

The Old Perfessor

Another one of my all-time favorite personalities is Casey Stengel. Nicknamed "The Old Perfessor," this garrulous story teller served more than fifty years as both player and manager. Arriving in Brooklyn for his first big league assignment duirng the 1912 slate, Casey was wise to the old hazing tradition that prevented rookies from taking batting practice. He quickly devised a remedy, handing out business cards to introduce himself and politely requesting he be allowed in the cage.

Legend has it that while playing for the Pirates in 1918, he hid a sparrow under his cap and when he tipped his hat to the crowd, the bird flew out. He was not above resorting to pranks as a manager either. During the '49 campaign (his first with the Yankees), he showed his disapproval with plate umpire Beans Reardon by throwing himself on the ground in a mock feint. He couldn't have been too convincing because Reardon laid down in the grass right next to him. Stengel picked himself up and abandoned the argument, later commenting: "I knew I was licked."

Always good for a quote, Casey's semi-coherent ramblings became known as "Stengelese." Here are some of his more memorable comments:

"The key to being a good manager is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who haven't made up their minds."

"We are a much improved ballclub. Now we lose in extra innings."

"If we're going to win the pennant, we have to start thinking we're not as good as we think we are."

"At the end of this season, they're going to tear down this place (The Polo Grounds). The way you're pitching, that right field section will be gone already."

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