Ninety years ago today, Casey Stengel completely lost his composure on the ball field.
Everyone has heard of Stengel, but the popular image of him is entirely that of a manager. That makes sense, as he won ten pennants in 12 seasons helming the Yankees, including the unprecedented trick of five straight world titles from 1949 to 1953.
Besides, he had this great folksy, artfully incoherent manner about him that made him colorful and quotable. When I say “artfully incoherent,” I mean that literally. Sportswriter Leonard Koppett once noted that Stengel’s habit of doubletalk was largely an act. It forced the listener to pay closer attention and could get Stengel out of situations through sheer “huh?”-ness.
For example, when he spoke before the US Senate about baseball’s anti-trust exemption, his thoughts were so impossible to follow that Mickey Mantle brought the house down by following up Stengel’s testimony with the great deadpan one-liner, “My views are about the same as Casey’s on this manner.”
Anyhow, when we think of Stengel, we think of the manager. But, of course, before then he’d been a player. Like many managers, he’d been a feisty son of a gun as a player. That makes sense because, if you’re not going to be passionate about wins and losses when you’re in the game, how can you keep that level of interest up as you age and your blood cools? Similarly, a young Tommy Lasorda was always a fighter, and the lovable persona he developed only came later.
But never was Stengel as ornery or as feisty as he was on May 7, 1923, 90 years ago today. Hell, ornery and feisty are far too mild words. Ballistic is more like it.
Stengel was a 32-year-old outfielder nearing the end of his career playing for John McGraw’s Giants against the typically sad-sack Phillies in Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl.
Early on, it looked like a wonderful day for Stengel and his teammates. In the top of the first, they pulverized starting Phillies pitcher, Lee Meadows. They chased him from the game before he recorded a single out. Six up and six in, including Stengel, who singled in teammate Frankie Frisch and then scored himself moments later on Ross Youngs’ double.
So far, so good.
But a few innings later, Stengel came up again, and things went completely off the rails. By this time a southpaw, Lefty Weinert, was on the mound for Philly. When Stengel came up, Weinert threw one right at him, decking him.
Clearly, Stengel thought it was intentional, because he went after Weinert. Stengel didn’t just go after him, though. First he threw his bat at the pitcher, and then went for the mound. Benches clear and all hell broke loose, but Stengel couldn’t be calmed down. Eventually, two of Philadelphia’s finest came on the field and arrested Stengel, walking him off in handcuffs.
Stengel soon would be released, but he did earn a suspension. My source says it was a 10-game suspension, but he didn’t play until June 2. Then again, maybe McGraw was upset with Stengel. Because even when Stengel returned, he didn’t actually start a game until July 12 after serving for nearly six weeks as a pinch hitter.
Oh, Weinert was thumbed for the fight, as well. There was no suspension for him, though. He played again four days later.
What happened? Was Weinert doing some payback for the first-inning rally? Then why choose Stengel? There were at least three extra-base hits that inning, and Stengel just singled?
Was there some bad blood between them? Stengel had been a teammate of Weinert’s on the Phillies in 1920-21. If this incident tells us anything, it’s that they weren’t best buddies. (Or they were, and Stengel was therefore that much more irate at the beaning).
Looking it up, this was the sixth time that Weinert had pitched against the Giants since Stengel had been traded there from the Phillies. Stengel had appeared in two of those games but never matched up against Weinert. In on case he pinch-hit for a pitcher in the bottom of the sixth, and Weinert pitched in the eighth. The other time, Weinert faced just one batter—the last Giants batter in a 13-inning game—and Stengel should’ve been the man up immediately prior to that.
So this was the first time Weinert ever faced Stengel since they had ceased to be teammates—and he threw a fastball right at him. No, it doesn’t sound like they got along as teammates, and it looks like this was Weinert’s first chance to nail Stengel, and Stengel knew it and went crazy.
That’s as near as I can tell just by looking at the gamelogs. Whatever the rationale behind it, Stengel was as upset as he’s even been on the baseball field, and it was 90 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since Dave Bush allows four straight Arizona Diamondbacks home runs in the fourth inning.
1,000 days since Mets reliever Francisco Rodriguez is arrested at Citi Field for allegedly assaulting his father-in-law after a loss to the Rockies (a loss Rodriguez hadn’t pitched in).
2,000 days since Joe Nuxhall dies.
3,000 days since the mother of Ugueth U. Urbina is rescued after five months in the jungles of Venezuela after being kidnapped. She’d been surrounded by explosives to prevent her escape.
4,000 days since Aaron Harang makes his big league debut.
7,000 days since the Reds sign free agent shortstop Tony Fernandez. This is during one of his occasional non-Toronto stops.
9,000 days since Davey Concepcion appears in his last game.
9,000 days since Randy Johnson makes his big league debut.
15,000 days since Paul Lo Duca is born.
20,000 days since Duke Snider has perhaps his worst game ever, going 0-for-4 with 4 strikeouts.
25,000 days since commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis dies.
1874 Case Patten, pitcher, is born. He’ll post three successive 20-loss seasons with the Washington Senators from 1903 to 1905.
1880 George Gore, star outfielder for the Cubs, gets six hits in one game.
1880 Mickey Doolan, infielder, is born. He’ll be a lousy hitter (.230 career average, 72 OPS+) but be good enough with the glove to last 11 years as a starter.
1887 Star hitter Tip O’Neill hits for the cycle for the second time in his career.
1903 It’s the first Yankees-Red Sox game. Boston wins, 6-2.
1903 Hall of Fame outfielder Fred Clarke hits for his second cycle.
1904 Hall of Fame pitcher Ed Walsh makes his big league debut for the White Sox.
1907 Wild Bill Donovan of the Tigers steals second, third, and home in the fifth inning against Cleveland. No wonder they call him wild. Added bonus: this wild baserunner is actually a star pitcher.
1911 A young Shoeless Joe Jackson hits an inside-the-park grand slam in the top of the 12th for Cleveland.
1915 7,000 Cleveland fans endure freezing weather to celebrate Nap Lajoie Day. Nap is now with the A’s, and this is his first trek to Cleveland this season.
1917 Babe Ruth beats Walter Johnson, 1-0. Not only does Ruth pitch a shutout, he also drives in Boston’s only run.
1921 Babe Ruth hits what is supposed to be the longest home run ever hit in Washington, D.C. It’s off Walter Johnson. Man, Ruth had Johnson’s number on May 7. In the same game, Ruth’s teammate Bob Meusel hits for the cycle.
1922 Ty Cobb laces out his 500th career double.
1922 Giants hurler Jesse Barnes throws a no-hitter. He walks just one in a 6-0 win over the Phillies.
1922 Eppa Rixey loses, dropping his all-time career record to 19 games under .500 (107-126). He’ll rally and make the Hall of Fame.
1925 George J. Burns gets his 2,000th career hit.
1925 Pirates shortstop Glenn Wright achieves the rarest play in baseball, the unassisted triple play.
1925 For the eight straight day, the Phillies’ game is postponed due to rain.
1929 Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams is born.
1933 Goose Goslin gets his 2,000th career hit.
1933 Carl Hubbell achieves his 12th straight Quality Start, his all-time longest such streak. His line in that time: 7-2 W-L, 107.2 IP, 82 H, 23 R, 17 ER, 15 BB, 64 K, and a 1.42 ERA.
1936 Cleveland Indians fixture Mel Harder wins his 100th game. His career record is 100-81 and counting.
1940 The Brooklyn Dodgers become the first club to travel by commercial airliner. It won’t really catch on for a while more.
1940 The Cardinals tie an NL record with seven homers in one game, and they get another half-dozen extra-base hits in their 18-2 demolition of the Dodgers.
1941 The Pirates trade Hall of Fame outfielder Lloyd Waner to the Braves.
1949 Mort Cooper appears in his last game.
1950 Jackie Robinson belts his 100th major league home run.
1950 Old Aches and Pains Luke Appling legs out his 100th triple.
1951 Johnny Vander Meer, of back-to-back no-hit fame, pitches in his last game.
1957 OUCH! Young stud pitcher Herb Score gets drilled in the right eye socket by a Gil McDougald line drive come-backer. Score hemorrhages blood as the ball caroms to third baseman Al Smith. He has to leave the game right away, and Hall of Famer Bob Lemon comes on to pitch 8.1 innings in relief, his longest relief outing, for a 2-1 Cleveland win over New York. Score will never be the same.
1959 It’s Roy Campanella Night for the Dodgers. 93,103 are on hand at the Los Angeles Coliseum, even though Campanella never actually played in LA.
1959 Stan Musial belts his 400th career home run.
1960 The Dodgers trade Sandy Amoros, defensive hero of their 1955 world title team, to the Tigers.
1960 Carl Furillo, one of the Boys of Summer Brooklyn Dodgers, appears in his last game.
1961 Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones, a star on the 1950 Whiz Kids Phillies pennant winner, plays in his last game.
1962 Houston trades former star pitcher Bobby Shantz to the Cardinals.
1962 The Mets trade Don Zimmer to the Reds.
1966 With their team off to a 4-16 start and coming off their first losing season in 40 years, the Yankees fire skipper Johnny Keane.
1969 Expos manager Gene Mauch, furious that his pitcher has been called for a balk, kicks a rosin bag 10 feet. Then he kicks it 20 feet. Then he punts the ball in the air. Naturally, this earns him an ejection.
1970 Frank Robinson hits the home run with the highest value, according to WPA at any rate. It’s a two-out, three-run walk-off blast that turns a 6-5 Orioles deficit versus Kansas City into an 8-6 win. It’s worth 0.914 WPA.
1970 Dodgers first baseman Wes Parker finishes off his cycle in style, with a 10th-inning triple.
1970 Brook Fordyce, catcher, is born.
1972 The Mets lose, 1-0 in 13 innings, to the Expos in heartbreaking manner on a walk-off error.
1974 It’s just the eighth homer of Dave Winfield’s career, but he’ll never have another quite like it. It comes in the top of the 13th, the latest he ever goes deep in a game.
1974 Texas trades pitcher Larry Gura to the Yankees.
1975 Sal Bando whallops the seventh and last grand slam of his career.
1975 Dick Allen is holding out from the Braves, so they trade him along with future AL manager Johnny Oates to the Phillies for Barry Bonnell, Jim Essian, and $150,000. Allen is willing to return to the Phillies, a team he hated playing for in the 1960s, when he finds out the fans want him back.
1978 The Pirates steal eight bases off Tommy John in eight attempts. That’s easily the worst job John ever does holding runners.
1980 Pascual Perez, a colorful 1980s pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1981 Six days after his first career home run (which was a walk-off blast), Tim Raines gets No. 2, which is an inside-the-park shot. He never legs out another one.
1982 Veteran flaky southpaw Bill Lee appears in his last game.
1982 Nolan Ryan gets blitzed, tying his personal-worst Game Score ever: 7. His line: 2.2 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, and 4 K.
1983 Steve Garvey gets his 2,000th career hit.
1983 For the first time in nearly five years, aging Reds catcher Johnny Bench gets a triple.
1984 The Giants lose, dropping manager Frank Robinson’s career record under .500 (419-420). He’ll be under .500 for the rest of his career.
1984 First baseman James Loney is born.
1985 San Francisco is no longer a DiSaster area as the club trades longtime whipping boy Johnnie LeMaster (nicknamed DiSaster) to the Indians. Though never a fan favorite, the fans’ disdain for LeMaster had grown so bad that earlier this year he took the field with a uniform that said “BOO” on back instead of his name.
1986 Longtime superlative fielding center fielder Garry Maddox announces his retirement.
1988 The Yankees sign free agent Chris Chambliss, returning him to the club with which he had his most famous moments.
1989 It begins! Groundbreaking for New Comiskey Park, a.k.a. U.S. Cellular Field, occurs in Chicago.
1991 Harold Baines belts three home runs in one game. It’s the third time he’s done that.
1992 White Sox pitcher Charlie Hough’s knuckler isn’t knuckling in any of the right directions. In the first inning, he walks in three runs. He walks the last five batters he faces, and then the reliever walks the first batter he faces. Yeesh. And the fun keeps going from there. Boston’s Jack Clark walks to drive in a run in two straight innings.
1992 Kenny Lofton hits his first career home run.
1993 The Dodgers release former star catcher Lance Parrish, whom Cleveland immediately signs.
1995 Larry Walker connects for his 100th home run.
1995 Braves manager Bobby Cox is arrested on domestic battery. Charges will be dropped on Sept. 1 after Cox undergoes counseling.
1995 Exactly one week after laying down his first sacrifice bunt, Manny Ramirez lays down his second and last one. He’ll have 9,337 more plate appearances without doing that again. (Then again, why would a manager want him to do it? If there’s every a time you want Manny to be Manny, it’s at the plate).
1995 Former right fielder Gus Bell dies at age 66. He made four All-Star teams with the Reds in the 1950s.
1996 Mike Piazza gets his 100th home run.
1996 Damn shame to hear: Brett Butler is diagnosed with throat cancer.
1998 Preston Wilson makes his big league debut.
1999 Bruce Aven swats the first pinch-hit grand slam in Florida Marlins history.
1999 The Rockies tie an NL record by scoring in 14 straight innings. The 1894 Pirates and 1949 Giants also did it. The AL record is 17, held by the 1903 Red Sox.
1999 Tampa’s Fred McGriff sets a new record by homering in his 34th ballpark, Cleveland’s Jacobs Field. Unfortunately for McGriff and his teammates, they blow a 9-1 lead in a 20-11 loss. The Indians score 18 runs in the final three frames.
1999 For the only time in his lengthy career, Kenny Lofton reaches base via catcher’s interference.
1999 Carlos Lee makes his big league debut for the White Sox and homers in his first at-bat. No previous White Sox player ever had done that.
1999 Pedro Martinez fans 15 Angels in eight scoreless innings. It’s his first time with that many Ks, but it won’t be the last.
1999 WPA thinks this is Barry Larkin’s greatest performance ever. He’s 3-for-4 with a double and a walk in Cincinnati’s 3-2 win over the Cubs for a 0.833 WPA.
2001 Pete Harnisch appears in his last game.
2002 Manager Bobby Valentine endures his 1,000 dugout loss. His record is 1,060-1,000.
2003 Mike Mussina enjoys a career-high ninth straight win. His line in that time: 10 G, 10 GS, 67 IP, 45 H, 12 R, 10 ER, 10 BB, 79 K, and a 1.34 ERA.
2003 Wayne Terwillinger, at age 79, becomes the oldest manager in minor league history. Connie Mack managed at an even older age in the majors, and a decade later Jack McKeon will do likewise.
2004 Edgar Martinez belts his 500th career double.
2005 The highly paid Barry Zito becomes the first Giants pitcher since Bill Clarkson in 1927 to start the year 0-7.
2008 Carlos Gomez of the Twins hits for the cycle.
2008 Joey Votto belts three home runs in one game.
2009 Arizona fires manager Bob Melvin.
2009 Major League Baseball bans Manny Ramirez for 50 games for violating the game’s performance-enhancing-drug policy. Civilization is doomed.
2010 Age ain’t nothing but a number. In this case, that number is 47. Despite his advancing years, Jamie Moyer posts the best Game Score of his career: 88. With his two-hitter, he becomes the oldest person ever to throw a complete-game shutout.
2010 For the first time since 1980, the Twins suffer their first home rainout. Welcome to the great outdoors at Target Field.
2010 At age 20, Starlin Castro makes his big league debut as Cubs shortstop. He hits a three-run homer in his first at-bat and follows that up with a bases-loaded triple. Six RBIs are a modern record for a debut game.
2011 Justin Verlander no-hits the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s his second no-hitter. It’s nearly a perfect game, as he walks just one batter, and that man is erased in a double play.