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Forging Genius: The Making of Casey Stengel [Kindle Edition]

Steven Goldman
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

When Casey Stengel was named the manager of the Yankees in 1949, baseball wags were stunned. What had Stengel ever done? His work managing the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves had been long on personality and remarkably short on success. They thought the Yankees would never be able to compete with the Red Sox or Indians with that broken-down old man in charge. At the All-Star break, the Yankees looked like a banged-up bunch of also-rans, not like a team about to embark on five straight championships. Yet Stengel seemed confident of success. As Steven Goldman explains, people had forgotten that Casey knew how to come back.

How did he know? Goldman refutes claims that anyone could have won with the Yankees. Casey knew how to win because of the years of struggle and ignominy, because he’d learned how to manage by running two of the game’s worst sad-sack franchises, because he had learned through failure. To understand Stengel’s formative years, Goldman retraces Stengel’s baseball education in playing for the great John McGraw, from whom he also learned that success permits no room for nostalgia. Goldman follows Stengel through his years with the Dodgers and Braves, his return to the minors, a spat with Bill Veeck, and his success as a businessman away from the diamond.

Forging Genius gives insights to Stengel’s irrepressible love of the game and his incorrigible desire to entertain. As Casey put it, “Because I can make people laugh, some of them think I’m a damn fool.” His humor camouflaged a relentless hunger for success, glory, and the respectability he desperately sought. Goldman gives readers an unprecedented vision of one man’s lifelong pursuit of genius on the baseball diamond.

Editorial Reviews


"Even the most fanatic Yankees fans will find themselves exclaiming, ‘Wow! I didn’t know that!’ Forging Genius is a delightful and wonderfully written look at a man who bequeathed more than we know to the game we love."

"Baseball talent doesn’t just appear, it evolves. After all these years, fans can finally learn where Casey Stengel came from--and perhaps where the next Stengel could come from, too."

"Goldman pulls off a difficult trick: Forging Genius is both densely researched and informative, yet a thoroughly engaging read too. He proves that there was much more to Stengel than a gift for shtick and blessed timing."

"Meticulously shows how managing atrocious teams prepared him for greatness."

"Forging Genius isn't so much a biography as a study in how three-quarters of a century of baseball wisdom came to be encapsulated in one of the game's classic eccentrics. . . . [It] is that rarest of baseball books: respectful toward tradition and irreverent to perceived wisdom. Mr. Goldman has looked down a well-traveled road and taken it to a new destination. The greatest of American sportswriters, Red Smith, once wrote that it was necessary to reintroduce Stengel to readers 'at least once a decade.' Mr. Goldman's book ought to do that for at least a century."

"Best book about a baseball manager this year."

About the Author

Steven Goldman writes the column “The Pinstriped Bible,” a regular Web column for the New York Yankees focused on their history, and also contributes to Yankees Magazine and He lives in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3800 KB
  • Print Length: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc. (October 31, 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005TVE6TQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #774,760 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Sports Writing of the Year!!! September 19, 2005
I usually read only fiction as I find non-fiction and biography to be on the heavy side; however, my husband forced me to read this book after he thought it was one of the best books he ever read, saying, "if you enjoyed Seabiscuit, then you'll love this, because it's ten times better." I can honestly say that while it's not ten times better than Seabiscuit, it is definitely on the same level.

Goldman does an amazing job showing how Stengel was really an intelligent man, displaying an American wit, typical of one from the Midwest and the great Mark Twain. After reading "Forging Genius" I discovered that Stengel was an incredibly funny guy with tremendous observational powers. It was truly a compelling and fluid story and I was surprised at how talented this first-time author is.

Forging Genius was meticulously researched, and what really shines through was how much the author enjoyed researching and writing about this colorful personality. It may make Goldman's story a tad biased on the positive side, but in today's cynical society, it was refreshing to see just a touch of hero-worship in a book about a man long considered to be a buffoon in baseball circles. Goldman proves that Stengel was ahead of his time and a genius to boot!

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the title is perfect April 6, 2008
Goldman, who writes for the NY Sun and more significantly, Baseball Prospectus, is a historian who interviewed nine of Stengel's players and tirelessly read 60 years worth of New York newspapers and books for this book.

George Weiss stunned baseball insiders, the press corps and Yankee fans when he hired Stengel in the fall of 1948. Many derided Stengel as a clown and a "second division manager." Stengel won 5 straight World Series with the Yankees (and an overall total of 7 titles and 10 pennants). After his unparalleled success, many of those who scoffed began to call him a genius. Goldman's book only spends two chapters on Casey's time with the Yankees; the bulk of it is about his playing and earlier managing career, where his genius was created and tested.

The highlights and major points of the book are the following:
1) his relationship with John McGraw
2) how McGraw platooned Stengel, thus creating the manager who would bring the platoon into vogue
3) how Bucky Harris invented the stopper with Joe Page, and how Stengel adopted and adapted his strategy
4) Stengel's love and ability to teach young players
5) how he used humor and obfuscation with the press
6) his relationship with Frankie Frisch
7) his relationship with Billy Martin
8) how, unlike most people inside and outside of baseball, he was able to learn and adapt as he grew older and moved up the chain of command

It's a wonderful, informative book with loads of quotes and funny stories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revisiting the Old Perfessor March 3, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Casey Stengel remains one of my heroes, even though his day in baseball concluded right around the time I was born. I am also a fan of Steven Goldman; his Pinstriped Bible is a much visited feature on my Bookmarks list. I purchased Forging Genius expecting a much closer look at the time of Stengel's managerial career in which he helmed such weak entries as the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves. The book indeed focuses on those years, and some new facts emerge that do not appear in other bigraphies. Nonetheless, those who buy the book with expectations similar to mine should be warned that extensive coverage is given to Stengel's first year with the Yankees, little of which has not been mined in other treatments. This is a book for hardcore baseball fans; those with an eye toward the history of the game will enjoy this book enormously.
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19 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring July 11, 2005
Goldman takes one of baseball's most entertaining characters and somehow manages to present us a story as lifeless as a pine tar rag. There is no organizing theme to this narrative. Although the chapters are presented chronologically (playing career, managing in Brooklyn, then Boston), the anectodes skip around in an unorganized way -- making it hard to keep track of what is happening when, or why we should care.

Here's what's interesting:

- Casey Stengel played for John McGraw, and they had a close relationship that amounted to McGraw willingly tutoring and nuturing Stengel's active mind. McGraw was an important mentor to Stengel, as a faculty advisor is an important mentor to a graduate student. (McGraw's influence among 20th century managers has been well documented by Bill James).

- Casey was instrumental in shaping Billy Martin's playing career, both with the Oaks in the PCL and with the Yankees. But there are important differences between Stengel and Martin's approach to managing (although this is never discussed).

- Casey managed some incrediblly bad teams (Boston Braves, NY Mets) and some incrediblly good ones. And he liked to platoon players, use his bench, and valued multi-positional players that increased his decision-making flexibility. On his best teams was able to rely on a few switch-hitters or star hitters that allowed him to save his platoon match-ups for players with reserve or part-time roles. However, this rarely (if ever) was extended to pitchers, whom he constantly moved in and out of different roles regardless of their talent level.

What we don't read about in this book is how managers that came after Stengel also employed these kinds of techniques. Whitey Herzog (for example) valued multi-positional players.
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