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Stengel: His Life and Times Hardcover – February, 1984

4.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

From its original publication in 1984, Creamer's superb portrait of one of the game's most cherished characters was quickly acknowledged as a masterwork of sports biography. Its opening line--"Casey Stengel naked was a sight to remember"--helped establish the complex and often contradictory personality that Creamer strips from its façade by work's end. Stengel worked to build his image as the game's crazy clown prince, but he was always crazy like a fox, remarkably resilient, quietly brilliant, and always entertaining, from the day he broke into the majors with Brooklyn in 1912 to the afternoon he finally hung up his uniform as the loveable manager of the hapless Mets in 1964. His record of success as manager of the Yankee juggernaut from 1949 to 1960 remains one of baseball's unapproachable legacies: 10 pennants and seven World Series titles, including five in a row. "Casey could be wildly amusing," Creamer writes, stating the obvious, "but," he continues, "there was a burning ambition in him too." By displaying the former--especially in the form of his own confusing use of words, dubbed Stengelese by the beat writers whose job it was to interpret him--Stengel was able to let the latter sneak up on the opposition undetected. It was part of his myth and part of his mystery, both of which Creamer exposes with great skill, real respect, and obvious affection. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"A superb book. . . . Creamer has set a standard of excellence for sports biographies."—Sports Illustrated
(Sports Illustrated)

"Exemplary . . . by scaling down the legend of Stengel to human proportions, Mr. Creamer has made it seem all the more vital."—New York Times Book Review
(New York Times Book Review)

"Full of energy and surprises and laughter. . . . In Creamer’s wonderful portrait, the real man is even more likable than the legend."—Washington Post Book World
(Washington Post Book World) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 349 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (February 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671224891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671224899
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 baseball....as 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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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