Baseball talk: Museum City of New York, July 19, 2003

 

          Every time I speak in public about baseball I am reminded of a long ago appearance in Staten Island. That was for my book NYC BB about the old B Dodgers, NY Giants, Yankees. Publicist prevailed on me to tell  all that I was a Dodger fan since I grew up in Brooklyn. I had no problem until that Staten Island appearance. A guy all the way in the back shouted out –I remember you from the old neighborhood ?you were never a Dodger fan ?you were that crazy Cardinal fan. The guy was right - I am still a Cardinal fan in the  - - -NL

 

          FOR ME  One of the perks of writing sports books and articles has been the interesting characters and I have met, the friendships I have made.

          One such person was Irving Rudd, a Damon Runyan type character who for a time was the publicity director of the old Brooklyn Dodgers.

          Irving became a good friend of mine and my wife Myrna. His words enrich RICKEY AND ROBINSON. His words over and over again enriched the five oral histories the Frommer have written.

          I would like to share a moving and funny Jackie Robinson story from our book IT HAPPENED IN THE Catskills. It comes to you in the voice of Irving Rudd

Recalling a winter weekend in 1954. Irving and his wife and Jackie Robinson and his wife Rachel went up to the famed Grossinger's Hotel for some relaxation. ((This is now Irving’s voiceJ))

          "You skate?" Jackie Robinson asked.

          "Not very well." I answered.

            "C'mon, Irv; let's go skating anyway."

          I said, "Okay," and we all went to the icehouse. We put skates on. The wives go to the rail to watch. Jackie goes out on the ice and proceeds to lose his balance and falls flat on his back. Geez! The image of Walter O'Malley, the owner of the Dodgers, came into my head. I just blew my job. Jackie Robinson just fractured something - why didn't I stop him from skating?

          Then Robinson gets up and brushes himself off. 

          "C'mon, Irv, let's race!" He gives me that big smile.

          So the two of us like two drunks go around the rink of Grossinger's. He's flopping on his knees. I'm sliding on my can. We get up and keep going and flopping and going and flopping and going. And he beats me by five yards.

          "Let's do it again," he says.

          =Around we go. This time he beats me by about 20 yards.

          "One more time," he says.

          By now, he's really skating. He is such a natural, gifted athlete. He's skating like a guy who has been at it for weeks. It's no contest. He's almost lapped the field on me.

          Now there's a crowd that's gathered and they're cheering. He puts his arms around me, and he wasn't a demonstrative man. "Irv," he says, "am I glad you were here this weekend with me. I just had to beat someone before I went home."

          That story give true insight into Jack Roosevelt Robinson and what he went through in his time as a Brooklyn Dodger.  And what a time it was: He played in the major leagues for a decade. He won the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949, and he helped the Dodgers win six pennants and one world championship. Despite all the pressure he played under, Jackie Robinson was still able to record a lifetime batting average of .311.

          From my point of view there is no event in sports history as significant as the breaking of baseball's color Line. It changed the national pastime forever. It ushered in a whole new era in baseball and in all sports.  Now more than thirty some odd years after Robinson's death at the age of only 53 in 1972  - -more athletes, not just the black ones, would be well served to remember the debt owed Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey.

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Here is how I described what it was like at the very start in my book RICKEY AND ROBINSON.

          “With the blue number 42 on the back of his Brooklyn Dodger home uniform, Jackie Robinson took his place at first base at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947. It was 32 years to the day since Jack Johnson had become the first black heavyweight champion of the world.

          “Many of the 26,633 at that tiny ballpark on that chilly spring day were not even baseball fans, but had come out to see "the one" who would break the sport's age-old color line. Robinson's wife, Rachel, was there along with the infant Jackie, Jr. Many in the crowd wore "I'm for Jackie" buttons and badges, and screamed each time the black pioneer came to bat or touched the ball.

           “Jackie Robinson grounded out to short his first time up. He was retired on a fly ball to left field in his second at bat. He grounded into a rally-killing double play in his final at bat of the day.

           The Dodgers won the game, 5-3, nipping Johnny Sain and the Boston Braves. For Robinson it was a muted performance, but the first of his 1,382 major league games was in the record books - and he had broken baseball's color line forever.

          "I was nervous on my first day in my first game at Ebbets Field," Robinson told reporters afterward. "But nothing has bothered me since."

          On April 18, 1947, at the Polo Grounds, in the shadow of the largest black community in the country, Jackie Robinson smashed his first major league home run as the Dodgers defeated the Giants, 10-4.

           Writer James Baldwin had noted: "Back in the thirties and forties, Joe Louis was the only hero that we ever had. When he won a fight, everybody in Harlem was up in heaven. On that April day the large contingent of blacks in the crowd of nearly 40, 000 had another hero to be "up in heaven" about, another hero to stand beside Joe Louis."

          Part sociological phenomenon, part entertainment spectacle, part revolution, part media event - the Jackie Robinson story played out its poignant, dramatic and historic scenes through that 1947 season.

          Toward the end of the season, a Jackie Robinson Day was staged at Ebbets Field. Robinson was now a major drawing card rivaling Bob Feller and Ted Williams in the American League.

           `"I thank you all." Robinson said over the microphone in that high-pitched voice. He acknowledged the gifts he'd received, which included a new car, a television and radio set and an electric broiler.

           The famed and great dancer “Bill “Bojangles?Robinson stood next to Jackie Robinson. "I am 69 years old," Bill Robinson said. "But I never thought I would live to see the day when I would stand face to face with Ty Cobb in Technicolor."

          The motivations of Brooklyn Dodger general Manager Branch Rickey have always been questioned. Why did he sign Jackie Robinson? How much of what he did came from a moral conviction that the color line must go, and how much came from a desire to make money and field a winning team?

          Monte Irvin,who wrote the foreword to my book  who came up to star for the New York Giants in 1949, suggests that what Rickey did is far more important than why he did it.

          "Regardless of the motives," Irvin observes, "Rickey had the conviction to pursue and to follow through."

          Breaking baseball's color line enabled Rickey to tap into a gold mine, but he elected not to monopolize the rich lode of talent in the Negro Leagues.

          Monte Irvin cold have been a Brooklyn Dodger, as well as other Negro League greats like Larry Doby, Sam Jethroe, Satchel Paige. But Rickey had Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Joe Black. He was very much in favor of the other teams integrating, too.

          Bigoted major league club owners who had called Rickey complaining, "You're gonna kill baseball bringing that nigger in now," were now asking, "Branch, do you know where I can get a couple of colored boys as good as Jackie and Campy and Newk?"

          Branch Rickey invented the baseball farm system when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals and presided over their famous Gashouse gang. He was an incredibly brilliant baseball man. He ran the Dodgers with a calm efficiency. Part of that calm efficiency translated to advising Robinson well. Reacting to the taunts and threats, and fighting back against the bigots could win a battle. But too much protesting could lose the war.

          Jackie Robinson took the abuse ?the cut signs by players near their throats, the verbal curses, the spiking attempts, the cold shouldering, the death threats that came in the mail.        

          By 1949, Jackie Robinson was in his third season as a Brooklyn Dodger and was no longer the lone black man on the baseball diamond - he could now let it all hang out. Branch Rickey who had kept the man Dodger fans called "Robby" under wraps was elated.

          "I sat back happily," Rickey recalled, "knowing that with the restraints removed, Robinson was going to show the National League a thing or two."

          Jackie's wife Rachel Robinson told me: "It was hard for a man as assertive as Jack to contain his own rage, yet he felt that the end goal was so critical that there was no question that he would do it. And he knew he could do it even better if he could ventilate, express himself, use his own style."

          And what a style it was!

 

          At times the style seemed to be a case of trick photography. He was an illusionist in a baseball uniform, a magician on the base paths. The walking leads, the football-like slides, the change of pace runs ?all were part of Robinson’s approach to the game.

          Today Jackie Robinson remains the stuff of dreams, the striving for potential, the substance of accomplishment. Today he remains a powerful, driving symbol of a person with limitless athletic ability, the weight of his people on his soul, raging against a world he didn't make.

          Jack Roosevelt Robinson played for the Dodgers of Brooklyn for a decade, and then he was done. Not many remember that he was actually traded to the New York Giants in 1956 - -but he refused to go. The owner of the  Giants/ Horace Stoneham/ presented Robinson with a blank check –“Fill in the amount…”            Jackie refused. ?I came in as a Dodger and that’s how I go out,?he said.

                   “Thanks  anyway.

          The thanks is due the man they called “Robby?for  what he accomplished in breaking the color line in baseball will last through all eternity. He blazed a path for many to follow, and they have enriched the game of baseball with their talent, verve, drive, and commitment.  It has become a better game.

===I had the good fortune to interview Jack’s brother Mack Robinson in Pasadena, California. I was a bit shocked that he taped me taping him ?but that is another story. “From time to time,?Mack told me, “I’m watching sporting events and I look at the TV screen and I see Jackie Robinson. I look at the whole spectrum of black America’s life from 1900 to 1947. We’re no longer the butlers, the servants, the maid. We’re senators and congressmen. We’re baseball managers. I trace it back to my brother and Branch Rickey breaking the  color line and creating a social revolution in  a white man’s world. Blacks have excelled in all areas because Jackie Robinson showed the world we could.?

          The last words in RICKEY AND ROBINSON  also belong to Irving Rudd:

           "I always used to think of who I would like going down a dark alley with me. I can think of a lot of great fighters, gangsters I was raised with in Brownsville, strong men like Gil Hodges. But for sheer courage, I would pick Jackie (Robinson). He didn't back up."

===Finally,     I would like to conclude PART ONE OF MY BASEBALL BOOK DOUBLEHEADER with a story that appears in It Happened in Brooklyn, the oral history I wrote along with my wife Myrna Katz Frommer.
          The speaker is identified as MAX WECHSLER:

          When school was out, I sometimes went with my father in his taxi. One summer morning, we were driving in East Flatbush down Snyder Avenue when he pointed out a dark red brick house with a high porch.
          “I think Jackie Robinson lives there,?he said. He parked across the street, and we got out of the cab, stood on the sidewalk, and looked at it.
          Suddenly the front door opened. A black man in a short-sleeved shirt stepped out. I didn’t believe it. Here we were on a quiet street on a summer morning. No one else was around. This man was not wearing the baggy, ice-cream-white uniform of the Brooklyn Dodgers that accentuated his blackness. He was dressed in regular clothes, coming out of a regular house in a regular Brooklyn neighborhood, a guy like anyone else, going for a newspaper and a bottle of milk.
          Then incredibly, he crossed the street and came right towards me. Seeing that unmistakable pigeon-toed walk, the rock of the shoulders and hips I had seen so many times on the baseball field, I had no doubt who it was.
          “Hi Jackie, I’m one of your biggest fans,?I said self-consciously. “Do you think the Dodgers are gonna win the pennant this year??br>           His handsome face looked sternly down at me. “We’ll try our best,? he said.
          “Good luck,?I said.
          “Thanks.?He put his big hand out, and I took it. We shook hands, and I felt the strength and firmness of his grip.
          I was a nervy kid, but I didn’t ask for an autograph or think to prolong the conversation. I just watched as he walked away down the street.
          At last the truth can be told. I am blowing my own cover. That kid, MAX WECHSLER, was me.

=========================

 

********     Reminds me of time Miami Book Fair . .my wife Myrna and I set to talk about one of our oral histories and close by was Fay Dunaway set to talk about her new book . . I told that audience maybe they were   wrong place ?with Old Timer’s Day at Stadium today  ?maybe some of you are in the wrong place.

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          As all of you know - The NEW YORK YANKES this year of 2003 celebrate their  100th anniversary?And although the beginning for the franchise was muted - In their first two decades the New York Yankees won no pennants and managed just two second-place finishes  --- over their next forty-four years the team dominated the American League, winning nearly two of every three pennants and twenty World Series.

          There was a pennant drought from 1965 until 1975 and then there were years of plenty. Between 1976 and 1980, the Yankees won four division titles, three pennants, and two more world championships. From 1981 to 1993 - once again there were no pennants.

          And then came the world championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000.

          From an inauspicious start back in 1903, once the New York Yankees got going, the world of baseball was never the same. The team from the Bronx has won more regular season games than any other franchise in the history of baseball, thirty-eight American League championships in an eighty-year period, and just about one World Series for every three played, twenty-six in all.

          The Yankees have been in more World Series and won more world championships and league championships than any other team in history.

          They own bragging rights to the most players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. No matter what prism Yankee baseball history is viewed through, the image is supreme.

          Overall ,owners have been ambitious and aggressive, managers prepared and innovative, players talented and driven..

          There have been Babe Ruth's Yankees, Joe DiMaggio's Yankees, Mickey Mantle's Yankees, Reggie Jackson's Yankees, Derek Jeter's Yankees. There have been players with unique talents and standout personas whose images linger down through the decades:

          The tiny Wee Willie Keeler, hitting 'em where they ain't.

          Jake Ruppert scheming.

          Gehrig playing on and on through the hurt and the pain.  

          The adroit Phil Rizzuto deftly bunting the ball.

          The zoned-in Eddie Lopat tossing the junk balls.

          Mickey Mantle busting it down the first baseball line,  running head down after bashing another monster homer.

          The determined Ryne Duren, wearing the coke-bottle eyeglasses, throwing the fastball to the backstop.

          Yogi rushing to leap into Don Larsen’s arms after the Perfect Game and David Cone on his knees after his Perfect Game.

           Munson in the dirty uniform, blocking home plate.

          Sal Durante squeezing the Roger Maris home run ball.

           Jeffrey Maier clutching the Derek Jeter shot.

          The extraordinarily gifted Alfonso Soriano ?whose talent level has no limit.

          Joe Torre and Don Zimmer sharing secrets, whispering on the bench.

          George Steinbrenner spending, complaining, spending.    

          Chants, “Donnie baseball,?nbsp; “Lou, Lou Lou!?nbsp; “Reggie.?nbsp;

===============

          Yankee talk is as much a part of the program as the pinstripes on their uniforms.  There has always been someone, friend or foe at the ready, with a one liner, a quick quip or extended verbiage on the team from the Bronx. 

          The Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller snapped:  - "I would rather beat the Yankees regularly than pitch a no-hit game." ?

          Yankee great Jerry Coleman - "It was a death struggle every day being a Yankee - you either won or you lost. There was no second place. Half of us were nuts by the end of a season."

          Star Red Sox hurler Pedro Martinez  "I wish I'd never see them again. I wish they'd disappear from the league."

          Columnist Mike Royko: "Hating the Yankees is as American as pizza pie and cheating on your income tax." ?/span>

          Pitcher Curt Schilling of Arizona, before Game One, 2001 World Series  - -"They have, what, 26 World Series titles? But that doesn't mean they are going to beat us. We deserve to be here as much as they do. I'm not trying to get Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig or Mickey Mantle out. I'm trying to get the Yankees' lineup out today." 

          The Yankees have actually played on four different home fields: Hilltop Park (1903-1912), the Polo Grounds (1913-1922), Yankee Stadium 1923 to the present. There were also a couple of odd seasons spent at Shea Stadium (1974-1975) while the old Yankee Stadium underwent a massive facelift.

          But the big ballpark, the House that Ruth Built, aspiring, powerful, historic, helped create and maintain the Yankee tradition right from the start. Through the years players from other teams have come into Yankee Stadium before a game, gawking, awed and intrigued by the fabled monuments and

          That is part of the Yankee mystique, part of A YANKEE CENTURY

          And so is the sound of the cultured voice of Bob Sheppard, the public address announcer who has been on the scene since April of 1951 - "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Yankee Stadium."

          It is famed opera singer Robert Merrill who became a Yankee fan when he was eight years old and saw Babe Ruth play who sings the national anthem at  Yankee Stadium

          It is Frank Sinatra singing: "...If I can make it there, I’ll  make it anywhere... "

          All of that is a part of the scene, a part of the mystique.

          THERE IS SO MUCH HISTORY, DRAMA, SO MUCH TO A YANKEE CENTURY. Those who know me know I could go on for days, but we only have minutes ?so I will focus my talk on three of my favorite  Yankee performers . . .

          JOE DIMAGGIO,

          YOGI BERRA,

          CASEY STENGEL      

          ========================

          Joe DiMaggio  may have been the greatest Yankee of them all.

          "There was an aura about him," Phil Rizzuto said.

           "Joe didn't sweat," veteran sportswriter Red Foley said, "he perspired."

          He was born Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio on November 25, 1914 in Martinez, California, one of nine children of Rosalie and Giuseppe DiMaggio, a crab fisherman father, an émigr?from Sicily. It was all planned for Joe to become a fisherman like his father.

           But Joe’s real passion was playing baseball, a game his father called "a bum's game." On the sandlots of San Francisco, the young DiMaggio developed baseball skills by hitting balls with a broken oar from a fishing boat. The kids he played with called him "Long Legs," in Italian. He was always tall for his age.

          With the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1933, DiMag hit safely in 61 straight games.  The next year, playing shortstop, he batted .341, but injured his knee. Yankee scouts Joe Devine and Bill Essick downplayed the injury in their reports to General Manager Ed Barrow. "Don't back off because of the kid's knee," Essick recommended. "He'll be all right.

          In 1936, permission was granted for DiMag to drive cross-country with fellow San Franciscans Tony Lazzeri and Frank Crosetti to the Yankee spring training camp in Florida. Lazzeri turned to DiMaggio after the trio had concluded one day of driving and asked: "Would you like to take over and drive?"    

          "I don't drive."  It was reported that those were the only words uttered by DiMag in that three day cross country trek. 

          On March 2, l936 DiMaggio finally reported to spring training.  Yankee pitcher Red Ruffing greeted him with "So you're the great DiMaggio?" 

          DIMAG would step into the batter's box and stub his right toe into the dirt in back of his left heel. It was almost a dance step. His feet were spaced approximately four feet apart, with the weight of his frame on his left leg. Erect, almost in a military position, Joe Dee would hold his bat at the end and poise it on his right shoulder - a rifle at the ready. He would peer at the pitcher from deep in the batter's box with a stance that almost crowded the plate. He was ready.

          In DiMaggio's first four seasons (1936-39), the Yankees won four straight World Series. "Joe was the complete player in everything he did," said his former manager Joe McCarthy. "They'd hit the ball to center field and Joe would stretch out those long legs of his and run the ball down. He never made a mistake.?/span>

          Secure in his feeling that he was the greatest baseball player of his time, Joe DiMaggio was fiercely concerned about his public image. Being silly in public was not for him. His shoes were always mirror shined,  his impeccably tailored clothes fit seamlessly.  DiMaggio led the major leagues in room service. On road trips, no one ate alone in his hotel room as often as he did. It all fit DiMaggio's personality which seemed placid, disciplined, calm.

          Only those in the Yankee clubhouse saw the legs scraped and raw from hard slides or diving catches. Only those in the clubhouse saw him sit for a half hour or more in front of his locker after the Yankees had lost or when he thought he had played beneath his exceptionally high standards.

          In 1941, the Yankee Clipper put together his season of seasons.  He batted .351, paced the American League with 125 RBIs, hit 30 home runs. He also struck out just 13 times.  But the centerpiece of that marvelous season was DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak which was a main reason for his winning the MVP award, narrowly edging out Ted Williams who batted .406.

          Military service and injuries limited DiMaggio to just 13 years in pinstripes. But it was a time the Yankees won 10 pennants and nine world championships.  

          On Joe DiMaggio Day in 1949 the Yankee Clipper said:  "When I was in San Francisco, Lefty O'Doul told me: 'Joe, don't let the big city scare you. New York is the friendliest town in the world.' This day proves it. I want to thank my fans, my friends, my manager Casey Stengel; my teammates,  And I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee."

          DiMaggio won three MVP awards, two batting titles, was named to the All-Star team every season he played, slammed 361 career homers, was struck out just 369 times,  had a .325 lifetime batting average.        

           In 1951, the man they called the Yankee Clipper, retired at age 36. Management attempted to get him to perform in pinstripes for one more season. But he had too much pride, and too much pain.

          Joseph Paul DiMaggio left behind the imagery of a player who moved about in the vast centerfield of Yankee Stadium with a poetical grace. He was one who played when he was fatigued, when he was hurt, when it mattered a great deal, and when it didn't matter at all.  "I was out there to play and give it all I had all the time," he said.    

          Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955, Joe DiMaggio passed away on March 8, 1999 at age 84.

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          Yogi Berra . . . was not only a great Yankee but a very funny guy.

       - -        In his prime, Lawrence Peter Berra was the heart and soul of the great Yankee teams of 1949-1955. That was when Yogi led the Yanks in RBI's each season and won three MVP awards.  

           The kid who grew up on the Hill in St. Louis eating banana sandwiches with mustard grew up to be one of the legends of Yankee baseball. ****As an inexperienced catcher in 1947, Yogi Berra once fielded a bunt in a game against the St. Louis Browns. He tagged the hitter and a runner coming home from third on a squeeze play. "I just tagged everything in sight," said Yogi, "including the umpire."

          From 1946 to 1965, Yogi averaged about 500 at bats a year and never struck out more than 38 times in a season. He played in 15 straight All-Star games, on 14 pennant winners and 10 World Champions, more than anyone in history. He is "Mr. World Series" holding records for games played, at-bats,  hits  and doubles .

          Manager Casey Stengel called him "Mr. Berra" and "my assistant manager." One of the great clutch hitters of all time, Berra golfed low pitches for deep home runs and stroked high pitches for line drives. Eight times he led the league in games caught and chances accepted, six times he paced all catchers in double plays, five times he posted more than 100-RBIs.

          Incredibly, although Berra never led the league in a single offensive category, he did just about everything else. In 1972 he was very deservingly elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

          And if there were a Hall of Fame for baseball talkers ?there would be a place of honor for Yogi.  Just a few of his gems include:

          “Congratulations on breaking my record last night. I always thought the record would stand until it was broken.?–to Johnny Bench who broke his record for career home runs by a catcher.

          "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else."

          "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."

          "A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it's home or on the road."

          "Baseball is 90-percent mental. The other half is physical."

          "I’ve known this guy so long. Can’t he spell my name right?" -- after receiving a check that said “Pay to the order of Bearer"

          "I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house."

===    =========================

          And speaking of Yankees who had a way with words = the old Professor Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel   is way up there with the best of them.

          Charles Dillon Stengel was born on July 30, 1890, in Kansas City, Missouri.  He died on September 29, 1975 in Glendale, California.  "There comes a time in every man's life," Casey said," and I've had plenty of them."

          A few of his favorites lines were: 

          On Yogi Berra’s luck - - "He'd fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch."  

            "Now there's three things you can do in a baseball game: You can win or you can lose or it can rain."

            "About the autograph business  - once somebody sent up a picture to me and I write: 'Do good in school.' I look up to see who was gettin' the picture. This guy is 78 years old."

          "I didn't get the job through friendship," Casey was serious at his first press conference on October l2, l948. "The Yankees represent an investment of millions of dollars. They don't hand out jobs like this just because they like your company. I got the job because the people here think I can produce for them. I know I can make people laugh. And some of you think I'm a damn fool."

          "It was a shock," said pitcher Eddie Lopat. "We thought we got us a clown. But we could see it was a treat for him to be with us after all the donkey clubs he had been with. "

          In 1949, the string of five straight pennants and world championships began. In the clubhouse celebration, Stengel who would be voted in as Manager of the Year, announced: "I want to thank all these players for giving me the greatest thrill of my life. And to think they pay me for managing so great a bunch of boys." 

          His time as manager of the New York Yankees ranks way up there. Under his leadership from 1949-60, the Yankees won 10 pennants and seven World Series, a record five straight world championships, 1949-1953. 

          in l960 in a tough pennant race, the Ol'' Professor rallied the Yankees to another flag. But Bill Mazeroski’s walk off homer gave the world championship to Pittsburgh.

          Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb, anxious to get rid of Stengel, used the defeat by the Pirates as an excuse. Casey was fired.   

           "I commenced winning pennants when I got here, "Stengel rasped, "but I didn't commence getting any younger. They told me my services were no longer desired because they wanted to put in a youth program as an advance way of keeping the club going. When a club gets to discharging a man on account of age, they can if they want to. The trick is growing up without growing old.  Most guys are dead at my age anyway. You could look it up.  I'll never make the mistake of being 70 years old again."

          It was perfect Casey Stengelese . . .and then as some of you know ?he was re-born in NYC as manager of the New York Mets and uttered that phrase that became very, very famous “Can’t anybody here this game??nbsp;

          Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, Casey Stengel is viewed by many  as  "Baseball's Greatest Manager."

          “Casey was a great, great manager, probably the greatest of all,?mused former Yankee great Jerry Coleman. “He understood his players, what they could do and what they couldn’t do. He understood the front office ?what they wanted from him.  He understood the media and that was vital in New York. He understood the fans ? he was great communicator. You don’t forget a man like Casey.?/span>