Customer Reviews: Stengel: His Life and Times
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on April 21, 2005
Picked up this book because I enjoyed Creamer's book on Babe Ruth and Stengel is just as good, maybe better.

You'd almost expect a book on Stengel to skip the earlier years in favor of his coaching years but this book doesn't. Stengel's early years are entertaining and provide a good look into the teens, 20's and 30's of baseball so if that's what you're after then you'll like this book. You'll probably also be surprised at the life that Stengel lived, there's so much more to this man than I expected - what a full life he lived. He was the Ulysses of if the Gods of Baseball decided to pluck this Chaplin-like soul and make him wander through the game for a lifetime. Creamer really delivers.
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on November 26, 2005
This is a solid biography of one of baseball's most colorful characters. Charles "Casey" Stengel (1890-1975) spent parts of six decades in the big leagues in a career that lasted from 1912 until 1965. Stengel was a bit clownish and he spoke in a distinctly non-articulate style ("Stengelese"), but he was also an extremely intelligent man. The author details Stengel's youth in Kansas City and early ambitions to become a dentist. We get a descriptive look at his 14-year playing career with several national league teams. We get an equally effective look at his managerial tenure with the mediocre Brooklyn Dodgers (1934-36 )and Boston Braves (1938-1943), the powerhouse Yankee teams from 1949-1960, and the woeful expansion New York Mets from 1962-1965. There are many smiles (and a couple frowns) for readers as these pages examine a complex and colorful man.

Author Robert Creamer uses straightforward readable prose, and the result is a very good and informative biography. Readers should also like his biography on Babe Ruth, and his look at the 1941 baseball seasons.
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on March 30, 2013
"Stengel" is one of several fine baseball books by Creamer, a student of the game whose works include a terrific biography of Babe Ruth and a very enjoyable look back at the 1941 season.

Most people remember Stengel, of course, for his 10 pennants in 12 years as manager of the New York Yankees from 1949-1960, a run that culminated with the fabled home run by Bill Mazeroski in Pittsburgh that gave the Pirates an improbable seven-game Series win. But during that run, Stengel's Yankees won five straight championships (1949-1953) and two others in '56 and '58.

Seldom recalled, however, is Stengel's checkered career as a manager before he got the Yankees' job. He had the helm in baseball backwaters like Boston -- he held the job with the terrible Braves, not the Red Sox -- and posted losing seasons regularly. Creamer details all of that and makes clear there was enormous skepticism when he took over as manager in New York. It wasn't only the writers who had doubts. Joe Dimaggio and Phil Rizzuto gave him little, if any, support. Rizzuto was particularly antagonistic. Yet after the Yankees won the famous battle with the Red Sox for the '49 pennant, Stengel steadily solidified his leadership of the team.

Creamer does a nice job of dispelling the notion that Stengel was "lucky" because he managed teams with great talent. In fact, he notes, writers regularly picked the Yankees not to win in the first few years of Stengel's reign. He was a master manipulator of his roster, regularly "platooning" players -- the term was new at the time -- and forcing the action of games in ways unthinkable today, such as pinch-hitting early in games and regularly switching players from position to position.

Also frequently forgotten is that Stengel was a pretty good Major League player with several teams, notably the Dodgers and the Giants, with whom he earned a measure of World Series fame, hitting two home runs in the '23 series. With the Giants, he played under the legendary John McGraw, who became his biggest influence as a manager. Creamer meticulously details these years, never glorifying Stengel, a funny but cantankerous character who won both supporters and detractors during his career.

The book loses some momentum during the final section on Stengel's last years in baseball managing the woeful New York Mets. Particularly unfortunate, in my view, was Creamer's decision to include a verbatim, annotated transcription of a long, rambling, nearly hallucinatory interview Stengel gave very late in his life to a reporter about a variety of subjects. It runs nine or 10 single-spaced pages that bring the book to a painful end. The conclusion is not bang, nor whimper, but rather a groan.

But there is plenty to recommend the book, and Creamer's work gives the reader a strong sense of Stengel's wit, eccentricties and real insight and contributions to the game of baseball.
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on March 31, 2016
The book was a worthy read. The author showed a genuine affection for his subject without fawning. In my opinion it did everything a biography is expected to do. It provides some insight into how Casey Stengel thought. It gives us a bit of insight into the best and the worst aspects of Stengel as a person, a ballplayer and a manager. It showed Stengel in good times and bad and indicated how he tended to accept the world as it was. It paints a picture of the times into which Stengel lived within the early years of baseball development. Finally, it shows the effect others within the baseball culture had on the development of the character that became Casey Stengel. It showed the human side of Stengel. On the other hand, it offered little or no first hand insight so much of the interpretation was the author’s and not Stengel’s. This is sad because the author would have been in a position and old enough to have firsthand knowledge of his subject. The author showed the clown that Casey Stengel had become as an old man in a chapter that painted him as a meandering, confused, and unfocused person during a verbatim 25 minute taped interview given by Ken Myer of WBZ taken after a sports banquet given in honor of Roberto Clemente about a month after his death. That would have been about two years before his death when he was 83 years old. This was some of the most difficult reading I have ever had to endure.
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on March 10, 2013
This is only a pedestrian account of Casey Stengel who won ten pennants and seven World Series as manager of the Yankees, a record of success unequaled in professional sports. Creamer does not adequately explain how Stengel was able to do this. Casey revived the platoon system in use since the nineteenth century but most spectacularly employed by George Stallings in 1914. Stalling's Braves were dead last on July 4, breezed to the pennant and the beat the Athletics, one of the greatest teams in baseball history, in four games. Casey remembered Stalling's tactics and achieved similar spectacular results using them during his tenure with the Yankees. Everything else he did went against the book. He used lead-off hitters with poor on base percentages, had no fixed pitching rotation and would use pinch hitters early in games if the situation warranted it. Bill James does an excellent job explaining all this in his book on Managers on sale at amazon.
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on August 24, 2015
While I was around when Stengel managed, I did not know that he played ball himself. I always remember him as a manager who always seemed calm. Not so in the book. He took many chances and went against the book many times. He would pinch hit for you in the 4th inning if he thought he could break the game open. Imagine doing that today
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"Stengel: His Life and Times" is no mere biography. It is a chronicle, not only of the earlier days of baseball, but of America itself. As a biography, it is superlative. As a history book, it stands on it's own merits.
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on February 7, 2009
I've read and re-read Stengel's 1958 Congrsssional Testimony and still don't get it - I guess I agree with...Mickey.
Creamer's clean, simple style, lends much needed clarity to the infield dust surrounding many of Casey's exploits, in and out of Baseball.
Not a long book - in fact, could have made a nice series for the New Yorker magazine, but it's a fine place to start for Stengel/Yankee/BB fans in general.
His relationship with the Commerce Comet (MM) is nicely described, though perhaps a bit superficial. Why couldn't the "Perfessor" reach the kid with all the talent? Why would Mantle rebel against the "Father figure", when he worshipped his "real" Dad, who died very young (and was largely responsible for turning Mickey into perhaps the most venerated athlete in history). Was Casey, psychologically, a "replacement" of Mutt? No digging there...
His genius also did not seem to extend to the pitchers - if he under-used someone like Ford in the regular season, that's one thing. But why not make him available to pitch a complete game to end the Series, if needed?
Another area which warranted more exposition was the recall to BB to be Manager of the new "Bums" in town, the Metropolitans. The first, crazy year (1962) was one thing. But why allow yourself to finally retire as a sideshow?
The book is very enjoyable - perfect for a Maine to Florida plane trip. Short on those long lists we love to stare at for hours on end.
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on April 20, 2012
Stengel was always fascinating to me. All I ever knew of him as a kid was that he managed the Mets. Creamer writes this book similar to his book on Babe Ruth. Creamer points out that Stengel was not the clown he had been portrayed to be and was in fact a complex individual. His childhood, days as a player, and time managing are all covered as well as his home life. In all, a great read and an excellent addition to my library.
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on April 18, 2007
Excellent. Well written, gives a good history yet moves right along.This guy had an amazing career and an amazing record.This is a must read for anyone interested in baseball.
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