Editor’s note: The following was written by longtime Sports Illustrated writer Walter Bingham, who was gracious enough to share a few vignettes for this website about one of baseball’s most legendary managers.
I was attending the winter baseball meetings in Washington D.C. back in, maybe 1957 or ’58. A colleague and I had decided to call it an evening when we saw several men standing around a couch just off the hotel lobby. Sitting there was Casey and someone else, a foil in effect, because Casey was doing all the talking. We joined the group, listening to Stengel ramble on, pretending to be talking only to his couch-neighbor, but knowing he had an audience.
After a half hour of this, entertaining though it was, it really was time to turn in. Which we did. The next morning, quite early, I rose, dressed and took the elevator to the lobby, looking for breakfast. To my astonishment, there was Stengel talking with someone else–no audience this time. No, he had not been there all night, or what was left of it. He had changed clothes, so presumably he had been to his room, presumably slept and yet had beaten me downstairs. Proof the man had stamina.
One evening at Yankee Stadium, I was watching batting practice, leaning on the metal framework of the cage. I felt someone tap me on the shoulder. It was Casey. What he said, if anything, I don’t recall, but he pulled at the netting to show me that it could more than reach my nose. That is, a foul tip by the better, should it come directly back at me, would not be impeded by the netting, leading to a broken nose. Proof the man had heart.
I was sitting in the Yankee dugout before a game. Stengel was there, surrounded by maybe four New York beat writers. I was considerably outside the ring, but certainly able to hear what Casey was saying. He was commenting on a throw an outfielder had made the night before.
The situation on the field was this: runners on second and third, no one out, two-run lead for the team on the field. The batter hit a fly ball to short right field. The outfielder caught the ball and fired to the plate, but the throw was slightly off line and the runner scored.The man on second advanced to third.
I was somewhat removed down the dugout bench from Stengel and the group of New York reporters around him, a kibitizer. But I could hear Stengel, who always spoke with a loud growl and when he asked “his guys” where the right fielder should have thrown, I just blurted out “third base” without thinking. The startled look on Stengel’s face was memorable, hearing the answer come from somehwere other than the group around him. I’m sure he didn’t even realize I was there.
I once told Casey something he didn’t know. In 1958, Stan Musial got his 3,000th hit and I was asked to write a “Highlight”, about a 500 word sidebar to whatevewr the main baseball story was that week. In researching Musial’s beginnings, I discovered that his first hit, a double, had come against the Boston Braves in 1942. The Braves were managed by Casey. So up to the stadium I went and asked him if he realized this. He did not, but the information obviously delighted him. He then spent the next five minutes talking about Musial, who of course he had soon become aware of, even if he didn’t remember hit #1.