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On This Date in Sports July 24, 1965: Casey Stengel's Farewell

in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

 

Casey Stengel manages his final game for the New York Mets, losing 5-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium. Following the game, Stengel, and a group of contemporaries in for Old Timer’s Day go out for a night on the town. After leaving Toots Shore, Stengel falls and breaks his hip. The manager just a week away from his 75th birthday would be forced to retire due to the injury. 

Charles Dillon Stengel was born on July 30, 1890, in Kansas City, Missouri. A teenager, he played on several semipro teams in the Kansas City area. He later played on a traveling team, before signing to play minor league baseball with Kansas City Blues in 1909. In the offseason, the left-handed Stengel went to dental school, struggling with the equipment that was built for right-handers.

Casey Stengel would not have to worry about dentistry as he was signed by the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers and made his debut at the end of the 1912 season. Stengel played in the majors for 13 years, spending time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants and Boston Braves. During his career, Casey Stengel got the reputation as a prankster, including releasing a bird that was under his hat when he came up to bat. 

During the offseason, Casey Stengel worked as an assistant professor, earning him the nickname “Old Professor” that would hang with him when he became a manager. Stengel’s managerial career began as soon as his playing career ended with the Boston Braves. He was hired to be a player-manager with the Worcester Panthers of the Eastern League, a Braves affiliate. A few years later, he moved on to be a manager of the Toledo Mud Hens of the International League, the top affiliate of the Giants. After the team ran into financial hardship, Stengel returned to the majors as a coach on Max Carey’s staff in Pittsburgh.

Casey Stengel got his first chance to manager in the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1934. Stengel would not have much success in his first managerial tenure, posting a record of 208-251 in three seasons with the Dodgers. After he was fired, Casey Stengel invested in oil fields in Texas and real estate in California, making him very wealthy, but returned to baseball when offered a chance to manage the Boston Braves in 1938. In five and a half seasons in Boston, Casey Stengel did not do much better, posting just one winning season with an overall record of 373-491.

After he was fired in Boston, Casey Stengel returned to the minor leagues managing the Milwaukee Brewers, a Chicago Cubs affiliate, and the Kansas City Blues, an affiliate of the New York Yankees, before finding his first taste of real success with the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League. The PCL was an independent minor league, which was a high-level minor league. 

In 1949, Casey Stengel got another shot at the majors as he was hired by the New York Yankees. With the Yankees, Stengel became a Hall of Famer as they won five consecutive World Series. Stengel was a big of a star as any player on the team as his roundabout speaking became known as “Stengelese.” Casey Stengel would manage the Yankees for 12 years, posting a record of 1149-696. The Yankees would win the World Series seven times while playing in the Fall Classic 10 out of 12 years. 

The Yankees fired Casey Stengel after losing Game 7 of the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Yankees claimed the firing had to do about Stengel turning 70, to which the manager quipped, “I will never make that mistake again.” As the Yankees fired Casey Stengel, the expansion New York Mets looking to draw fans and attention began putting their organization together. They hired former Yankees’ GM George Weiss, who decided that Casey Stengel was the perfect man to sell the Mets and lead the team in its early years. 

The expansion Mets were among the worst teams in baseball history, posting a 40-120 record in 1962. As the Mets complied losses, Casey Stengel became the face of the team, helping the Mets become baseball’s loveable losers. The Mets posted a record of 51-111 in 1963 and 53-109 in 1964, through it all Casey Stengel with his Stengelese sold the Mets calling the Amazin’, a nickname that would stick. 

The Mets were planning a grand celebration of Casey Stengel for his 75th birthday, inviting some of his former players and teammates for a special Old Timer’s Day to take place on July 25th. The night before the Old Timer’s celebration, Stengel went out to Toot Shoor’s a local nightclub popular among the players who played for New York’s teams. Sometime during the night, Stengel fell and broke his hip. 

The following morning, Casey Stengel was taken to the hospital as Wes Westrum, who had been the Mets pitching coach, took over as manager. By 1965, some in the Mets organization had begun to tire of Stengel’s antics, especially when he began falling asleep in the dugout during the game. The Mets held a record of 31-64 when Stengel suffered his injury. Casey Stengel would spend nearly a month in the hospital recovering from a broken left hip. Realizing he was due for a long rehab, Stengel decided to retire. With the Mets, Stengel posted a record of 175-404 and a total record of 1,905-1,842 for his career.

 The Mets finished the 1965 season with a record of 50-112. Before the season was over, the Mets retired Casey Stengel’s #37. The Yankees would follow suit, making Casey Stengel the first player to have his number retired with both the Mets and Yankees. Wes Westrum would manage the Mets until 1967, the Mets went 66-95 in 1966 and were 57-94 when Westrum was fired late in the season. Casey Stengel remained in the Mets organization as a vice president for the remainder of his life, serving mostly as a club ambassador as he retired to California.