Marty Appel has hit another home run with his latest undertaking “Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character.” Appel, whose credits include “Munson” and “Pinstripe Empire,” the definitive history of the New York Yankees, digs deep into Casey Stengel’s life and uncovers multiple aspects of a life in baseball that spanned more than 50 years.
In 2009, MLB Network ran a series that highlighted many areas of the game. Stengel finished first in a category called “Characters of the Game.” He beat out luminaries such as Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher and Satchel Paige.
Upon Casey’s death in 1975, Richie Ashburn, who played for Stengel with the original Mets, said: “He was the happiest man I’ve ever seen.”
Casey loved the writers who covered his teams – ‘my writers’ he would call them. He was a showboat and a rabble-rouser who wasn’t afraid to mix it up in a fight. He was a .284 hitter as a player, and managed the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Mets, achieving his greatest fame with the Yankees who won five straight World Championships between 1949 and 1953.
Here are 10 amazing factoids and associated Stengelese witticisms found in Casey’s bio:
1. Casey hit the first home run in Ebbets Field when the Brooklyn Superbas (soon to be called Dodgers) christened their new park with an exhibition game against the Yankees before the 1913 Series. Generous scoring ruled Stengel’s inside-the-park blast a home run.
2. A decade later, in 1923 Stengel hit the first World Series home run in the history of Yankee Stadium. This was also an inside-the-parker, and gave the New York Giants a 5-4 win over the Yankees. Stengel also homered in Game 3, and this blast into the right field seats gave the Giants a 1-0 win.
3. In 1933, Casey served as a pall bearer at the funeral of legendary Giants manager John McGraw. Other pall bearers that day included George M. Cohan, DeWolf Hopper (who wrote ‘Casey at the Bat’’), Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert, Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson, Will Rogers, and football Giants owner Tim Mara.
4. One year, Stengel managed the Boston Braves to a sixth place finish, coming on the heels of four seventh place finishes. Early in the 1943 season Casey was hit by a taxi cab in Kenmore Square and broke his left leg. Acerbic Boston Record columnist Dave ‘The Colonel’ Egan wrote that “the taxi driver who knocked Stengel down and put him out of commission until July” should be voted the man who did the most for Boston baseball in 1943.
5. Before the first game of the 1952 World Series, Stengel, then manager of the Yankees, took Mickey Mantle out to right field in Ebbets Field to give him a tutorial on the angles of the concrete wall. Mantle looked at Casey as though he was screwy. “Guess he thinks I was born at age 50 and started managing immediately,” said Stengel.
7. After guiding the Yankees to 10 American League pennants in 12 years, Stengel was let go by the team after losing to the Pirates in a thrilling seven-game World Series in 1960. “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again,” Casey said.
8. In 1962, Casey took over the reigns of the expansionist New York Mets. The Mets were lovable losers (they lost 120 games in the inaugural season), but Stengel quickly made them popular. Take for instance Marvin Eugene Throneberry (whose initials were MET). In the first inning of a June game against the Cubs, Marvelous Marv steamed into third base with a triple. However he was called out when the umpire ruled he missed second base. When Casey came out to argue, the ump, Dusty Boggess, said, “Don’t bother Casey, he missed first base too.”
9. Casey invented his own form of speaking, called Stengelese. One of his favorite sayings was “Most people my age are dead at the present time.”
10. Just days before he passed away in the hospital at the age of 85, Casey decided to rise from his hand, stand barefoot in his hospital gown, and put his hand over his heart as the national anthem was played. Near his gravesite is a plaque that reads: “There comes a time in every man’s life and I’ve had plenty of them.”
Scoping out the village of Wappingers Falls the other day when I stumbled upon this plaque in the center of town, right near the waterfalls in front of a bicycle shop. Turns out Dan Brouthers, a native of Dutchess County, was quite a ballplayer.
Brouthers was born in Sylvan Lake, NY, in 1858. As a teen-ager he played for the semi-pro Actives in Wappingers Falls before making his professional debut in 1879 with the Troy Trojans.
A big man by the standards of the time (6-2, 207), he was known as the first great slugger in baseball history. “Big Dan” held the career record for home runs from 1887 to 1889 and hit 106 home runs, fourth highest total of any 19th Century player.
A left-hand hitting first baseman, he had a career slugging percentage of .519, which remained a major league record until Ty Cobb moved ahead in 1922. When Brouthers retired, he ranked second with 205 triples and third in RBIs (1,296) and hits (2,296).
Brouthers played for a variety of teams throughout a 19-year career that spanned four decades, including the Buffalo Bisons, Detroit Wolverines, Brooklyn Grooms and Boston Beaneaters, all of the National League.
He earned five batting titles, and his lifetime average of .342 ranks ninth on the all-time list, tied with another great slugger, guy named Babe Ruth.
John McGraw, the long-time manager of the New York Giants, once said: “Brouthers really was a great hitter, one of the most powerful batters of all time. ‘Big Dan’ in his prime, against the present-day pitching and the modern lively ball, would have hit as many home runs as anybody. I don’t think I ever saw a longer hitter.”
Brouthers retired in 1896, but returned eight years later in 1904 to play two games for the Giants. He is one of 29 players in MLB history whose career spanned four decades.
At the age of 46, he played for Poughkeepsie and led the Hudson River League in batting with a .373 average. He spent nearly 20 years working with the Giants, and was in charge of the Polo Grounds press gate.
Brouthers died in 1932, and is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Wappingers Falls. Dan Brouthers was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1945. The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) ranks him as the ninth greatest player of the 19th Century.
Related blog: Be sure to read about another great Dutchess County baseball player, Hall of Famer Eddie Collins of Millerton.