STENGEL: His Life and Times by Robert W. Creamer

STENGEL: His Life and Times

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KIRKUS REVIEW

I hope that I have tied many of the wild and cheerful and occasionally unpleasant stories to their proper place in the chronology of Casey's days and nights."" So says Creamer (Babe) in an afterword here--and, indeed, though appropriately casual in style, this biography of baseball's legendary player/manager is almost stolid in its detailed, season-by-season account of Casey Stengel's nearly 60 years of big-league activity. Stocky son of a Kansas City insurance man, Charley Stengel was a weak student but a strong athlete. At age 19, after playing amateur ball for money, he signed with a minor-league team, the first of several; a lousy fielder, he could hit, throw, and run fast. So, despite his reputation as a clown, he was soon a Brooklyn Dodger--with a spectacular rookie debut, a new nickname (from K.C.), a skyrocketing salary, a few off-seasons (probably not, says Creamer, due to VD), money wrangles with management. Traded away in 1918, he languished in Pittsburgh and Philly--but was reborn, sort of, in three years with the Giants: though over-the-hill he became the hero of the '23 series; more important, he found a role-model in manager John McGraw, learning how to teach, to motivate players. So, when his playing career soon faded, Casey had the background to start managing--from the minors to hopeless Brooklyn, from six disheartening Boston years to the minors again, and then, at age 59. . . the Yankees. ""It was as though he had done nothing. He still had to prove himself."" Joe DiMaggio was dubious. Mickey Mantle resisted Casey's intense tutelage (like ""an angry father and a stubborn son""). Billy Martin was adoring, then felt betrayed. But Casey's McGraw-style leadership won pennant after pennant--and a personal celebrity he embraced with often-crass gusto. Creamer doesn't play down the Stengel flaws (including alleged racism). He balances the jokester-anecdotes with the emphasis on Stengel as teacher/tactician. And, if neither deep enough nor spirited enough to be home-run reading, this is a strong, straight line drive--with the baseball history and play-by-play sometimes overshadowing the Casey personality.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1983
ISBN: 0803263678
Publisher: Simon & Schuster