Transaction of Today – May 20, 1925…The Boston Braves release Casey Stengel.
It was his second career as a manager that would one day get him to Cooperstown, but for fourteen years, The Old Perfessor (sic) played professional ball – and sometimes rather well. His last stop with Boston, much like his first stop with Brooklyn, would allow Stengel to both play and manage for the same franchise. Of course, it was later as the manager of the Yankees that Stengel would find his greatest success.
But before that, he signed with his local Kansas City Blues of the American Association. He was supposed to be a pitcher but lacked the arm for it so he moved to the outfield. He struggled at first and even was training as a dentist for an alternate career, but his bat came through in 1911 as he hit .352. That got the attention of Brooklyn, who drafted him to their club. After a year of working in the minors for Brooklyn, Stengel arrived for good in 1913.
Stengel spent his entire career in the National League, though his best days came as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers/Robins. In 1914, just his second full season, he led the NL in OBP with a .404 rate while settling into the everyday right fielder role. He never hit more than nine home runs or stole more than 19 bases, but he did have three seasons of a .270 or better batting average with Brooklyn. He would have four hits, all singles, in the 1916 World Series, though the Robins lost in five games to a Boston Red Sox club with a 19-year-old Babe Ruth throwing 14 innings of one-run ball.
In 1918, Stengel was traded to the Pirates and two years later, joined the Phillies. His time in Philly was short-lived before yet another trade, this time to the Giants. He landed a role as a platoon hitter for John McGraw‘s Giants. It was under McGraw that Stengel learned much of what would help him to be a manager. On the field, he played 177 games for the Giants and hit .349/.413/.524. During his two-plus seasons in New York, he served as a left-handed center fielder who shared time with Bill Cunningham and Jimmy O’Connell. Stengel also played in back-to-back World Series in 1922-23. He hit over .400 and bashed a pair of home runs when called upon. One was an inside-the-park homer that won Game 1 for the Giants in 1923, but they weren’t able to repeat as champions against the Yankees after beating them in ’22.
After the 1923 Series, which included a moment in which Stengel incensed Yankees fans by blowing kisses to them after his second homer, Stengel was traded to Boston. The then-33-year-old outfielder would hit well in 1924, though exposure as an everyday player brought him back to Earth to the tune of a .280/.348/.382 year. It would be his last real taste of life as a major league player. The following season, Stengel was replaced by the younger Dave Harris and Jimmy Welsh. Through the first month or so, he only appeared 12 times. Stengel was 1-for-13 on the season when, on this day, he was released.
In truth, he was re-assigned. He joined the Worcester Panthers, Boston’s minor league team in the Eastern League, as their player/manager/president. With the bat, he was wonderful. As a manager, Worcester would improve from last place to third place. He soon left the team – resigning as its manager and releasing himself as its president – to join Toledo as a player/manager. He would severely pull back on the playing part the following year. Over six years with Toledo, he won an American Association pennant. Mostly, however, the Mud Hens would struggle.
He’d later coach and then manage the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1934-36 before joining Boston as its manager in 1938. Over seven seasons, he guided Boston to just one .500 season. He resigned after 1943 with a record of 373-491 with Boston. Six years later, he returned to the bigs as a manager with the Yankees. For a dozen years, his teams played in the World Series all but twice. They’d win it all seven times.
On this day in 1925, Casey Stengel’s playing career as a major leaguer came to a close for good. He hit 60 career home runs and swiped 131 bases. For his time, he posted a 120 OPS+. He was, by most accounts, a decent ballplayer. But it was his success as the Yankees skipper during a dynasty that made Stengel one of the most well-known names in baseball history. Over 25 years in baseball, Stengel’s teams won 1,905 games. Quite a bit more prolific than his 1,219 career hits, right?
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