Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Old Perfessor

Speakin' of 1960...how did NYC icon Casey Stengel ever make it to Pittsburgh-proud GW's board? Easy - the baseball legend was a Buc early in his career, playing here in 1918-19. And no, we weren't around to see the Old Perfessor patrolling the garden in Forbes Field!

He hit town along with infielder George Cutshaw in a 1918 trade for infielder Chuck Ward and pitchers Burleigh Grimes & Al Mamaux, who went to the Brooklyn Robins.

The lefty was a platoon OF'er in Pittsburgh, hitting .246 and .293 in his two years here (he was a .284 lifetime hitter in 14 seasons). They weren't great squads, finishing fourth both years, playing slightly better than .500 baseball.

But the legend of Stengel the showman was born while he was wearing the Bucco colors.

In 1918, Stengel was being taunted mercilessly in the outfield by the rabid Brooklyn fans at Ebbett's Field, where he played for five seasons before being traded to Pittsburgh. It was his first game back in the Borough since the deal, and the crowd really let him have it.

Stengel got hold of a sparrow on the way back to the dugout and stuffed the poor bird under his cap. Due up, he strolled to the plate, greeted by a chorus of boos and catcalls. He turned to the crowd, took a bow, tipped his hat, and out flew his feathered captive. The jeers turned into laughter and cheers, and a star was born.

But not in the Steel City. The management was not amused nearly as much as the fans were by his antics, and they shipped him to Philadelphia in August of 1919 for Possum Whitted.

Of course, Stengel became better known for managing than for playing, and was closely associated with the Big Apple.

He's the only person to have worn the uniform of all four MLB teams that played in New York City in the 20th century; the New York Giants (as a player), the Brooklyn Robins/Dodgers (as both a player and a manager), the New York Yankees (as a manager), and the New York Mets (also as a manager). As Stengel would say, "You can look it up."

Stengelese became a language even more renowned than Yogi Berra-ism. Here's a couple quips that John Russell may want to adopt:

> Most ball games are lost, not won.

> You have to have a catcher because if you don't you're likely to have a lot of passed balls.

> You gotta lose 'em some of the time. When you do, lose 'em right.

> I don't like them fellas who drive in two runs and let in three.

> Son, we'd like to keep you around this season but we're going to try and win a pennant.

> We are a much improved ball club, now we lose in extra innings!

> Can't anybody here play this game?

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