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Forging Genius: The Making of Casey Stengel Paperback – October 31, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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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 www.mlb.com. He lives in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc. (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574888749
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574888744
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,026,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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Format: Kindle Edition
It was a time when there were 8 baseball teams in two divisions—American League and National League. As a kid I can remember when it was always the Yankees vs. either the New York Giants or Brooklyn Dodgers who ultimately at the end of the baseball season went to the World Series. The second place team in the American League was consistently the Chicago White Sox managed by Al Lopez usually about 12 games out of first place. The other teams were further behind. And who managed the Yankees back then? Yep! Casey Stengel.
Now, in this biographical sketch, learn about this great man and what makes him tick. How did he lead the Yankees through five straight championships? From his humble beginnings baseball fans thought that this old man would never be able to compete with the Red Sox or Indians. And did he surprise every baseball fan.
Forging Genius gives insights about the love Casey Stengel had for the game and the desire to entertain baseball fans. With a relentless hunger to succeed he earned everybody's respect. This is a must read for every body who likes baseball and wants to learn something about this great American sport. I like it and give it five stars. Marvin P. Ferguson, author of BOYS ON THE GOLD COAST.
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Format: Hardcover
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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