Monday, May 18, 2015

Casey at the bat for the Giants

A fine bit of reporting and writing in "Joy in Mudville" by Frank Johnson of the Hardball Times, focusing on Casey Stengel the player -- who hit his heights in the 1923 World Series between the Giants and the Yankees. Here's part -- 


Since Stengel made so much World Series history as a manager at Yankee Stadium, it is fitting that he was there at the beginning as a player. In fact, he was the first man to hit a World Series homer there (Joe Bush went into the books the first pitcher to give up a postseason home run there). Stengel’s Game One four-bagger was also the first postseason inside-the-park home run at the Stadium. Since it broke a 4-4- tie in the top of the ninth inning (and the Yankees did not score in the bottom of the inning), it was a true game-winner.
The sight of the aging, gimpy Stengel chugging around the bases after his long drive to left-center inspired memorable descriptions from a number of sportswriters. According to legend, his shoe came off as he was rounding the bases. This has never been verified, but it certainly sounds Stengelesque.
Figuring Casey was winded, John McGraw took him out of the game and replaced him with Bill Cunningham in the bottom of the ninth. Given Stengel’s age and injuries, it is surprising that he was the Giants’ center fielder, especially in such cavernous ballparks as Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. But his original position, right field, was owned by Ross Youngs, whose credentials were good enough to garner him a plaque in Cooperstown despite a premature death, and left field was manned by the capable Irish Meusel. So Casey was the center fielder by default, no matter his physical faults.
Since left-hander Herb Pennock started for the Yankees in Game Two (a Yankees victory), Stengel did not play. But in Game Three, he lined a conventional home run to right field – the first “outta here” World Series home run (served up by Sam Jones) at Yankee Stadium. This seventh-inning circuit clout was less dramatic than his Game One homer, but since the solo shot accounted for the only run of the game, the Giants likely thought it was a thing of beauty.
Giants fans would find little to cheer about the rest of the way, however. In fact, Stengel just might have jinxed his teammates. He blew a kiss and thumbed his nose at the Yankees while he was in his home run trot – a luxury he did not enjoy while circling the bases on his first home run.

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