Sports journalist Appel (Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss, 2012, etc.) delves deeply into the baseball career and personal life of Casey Stengel (1890-1975), a solid player and legendary manager.
Citing new material unavailable to previous Stengel biographers and chroniclers of the New York Yankees, the author offers an informative, smoothly written account of a complex and relentlessly interesting subject. In 2009, the Major League Baseball Network sponsored a campaign to identify the most memorable “character” in the sport’s long history. Stengel placed first, ahead of Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth, Satchel Paige, and numerous other legends. Presumably, Stengel won because of his occasional antics on the field and in the dugout as well as for the way he spoke, an idiom dubbed in the 1930s as “Stengelese”—the New York Times described it as a “unique way of turning short answers into run-on sentences.” However, Appel demonstrates convincingly that Stengel was no clown. He could speak clearly and grammatically when he chose to do so, he was an insightful student and teacher of baseball, he understood how to connect with others, he was a sophisticated investor who accumulated wealth, and he was a loving husband to his wife for decades. Despite an unusual physique, he demonstrated outstanding athleticism as a youth and rose quickly through the ranks of professional baseball as a hitter and outfielder. After retiring from active playing, his baseball intelligence led him to managing in the minor and major leagues. Though his records with those early teams are unimpressive, when the New York Yankees hired Stengel to manage the 1949 season, the legend for winning began, lasting through 1960. After those remarkable baseball seasons, Stengel reluctantly retired, only to return in 1962 to lead the newly created New York Mets franchise. Stengel is unquestionably one of baseball’s most significant characters, and Appel is the perfect fit to chronicle his life.
One of the more skilled biographies baseball fans could hope to find.