Casey Stengel: They Didn’t Hire Him for Laughs

When Casey Stengel became manager of the New York Yankees in October of 1948, most people weren’t too excited about the new hire.

The previous manager, Bucky Harris, had been wildly popular, having taken the Yankees to the World Series championship in 1947. They finished third in 1948, but it was rumored that the reason Harris was fired was that he wouldn’t give general manager George Weiss his home phone number.

When Stengel joined the Yankees, his career as a manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1934–1936) and Boston Braves (1938–1943) was considered lackluster. Boston newspaper columnist Dave Egan remarked that Boston’s 1943 team should have considered themselves lucky when a taxi driver ran Stengel over two days before the season opener, fracturing his leg and keeping him away from his duties for almost two months.

When a profile of Stengel appeared in the March 12, 1949, issue of The Saturday Evening Post, writer Tom Meany noted that the Yankees weren’t so sure about Stengel, either: “There has been considerable speculation over the reaction of the old-line Yankees to the appointment of Stengel. … It will be novel, to say the least, for them to be directed by a manager who thus far has gained more fame by his humor than by winning pennants.”

Indeed, Stengel’s most notable traits at the time were his quips and quirky conversational style. Meany wrote, “Although always an entertaining conversationalist, Stengel has a habit of wandering from his point, like a dog turned loose in a rabbit patch.” Stengel once observed that “the secret of successful managing is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the four guys who haven’t made up their minds.”

What Meany couldn’t have guessed as Stengel started his stint with the Yankees is that Stengel would lead the team to five consecutive World Series wins (1949–1953), the most consecutive wins ever by a major league baseball team. What Meany did predict was Stengel’s drive to succeed, writing, “Nine years of trying to win with has-beens and never-weres left its mark on Stengel. He became a desperation manager, like a fellow playing the races with the rent money.” That desperation may have led Stengel to develop some of his unique strategies, including platooning, leveraging pitchers, and getting creative with lineups.

Meany concluded that “despite Stengel’s critics, who think he does it with wisecracks, baseball jobs such as managing the Yankees are handed out on the basis of what you know rather than whom you know. Baseball observers think Casey knows a lot.”

Turns out, he did.

First page of an article featuring Casey Stengel
Read “They Didn’t Hire Him for Laughs” from the March 12, 1949, issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Cover Collection: Baseball

From luminaries like Stan the Man and Yogi Berra, to kids playing sandlot ball, The Saturday Evening Post knew no equal when it came to great baseball covers.

Cardinals ball player signs autographs
Stan the Man
John Falter
May 1, 1954

Not only did these St. Louis kids have to miss school (awww!), they had to sit and pose with Stan the Man Musial. What a rough life. The lucky youngsters wound up with forty Musial autographs. “Wow!” one said in awe. “Will we clean up selling these at school!” We’re sure at least one of them has wished he’d kept it.

 

Yankees catcher Yogi Berra attempts to catch a fly ball.
Yogi Berra
Earl Mayan
April 20, 1957

Who doesn’t love Yogi Berra? Long before he became famous for maiming the English language, Berra was catcher for the New York Yankees. Artist Earl Mayan got him to pose in Yankee Stadium for this cover. Love the fan faces! The editors informed us they were friends of the artist and “were real nice-looking people till he asked them to look like baseball fans.”

 

A family plays baseball
Family Baseball
John Falter
September 2, 1950

While we admire the pros, there’s nothing like a family baseball game. It’s 1950 and Uncle Baldy can’t decide whether to pitch or throw to Aunt Sally in the yellow dress on second base and catch the guy out. We have to say Aunt Martha’s batter’s stance is interesting. The editors speculated that the umpire was selected “because he has a natural chest protector”. Well, a natural belly protector, anyway.

 

A baserunner slides into home plate while the catcher awaits the ball.
Sliding into Home Place
Anton Otto Fischer
April 16, 1910

It’s no surprise that they played baseball in 1910, as we see in this cover. What surprised us was the artist – none other than Anton Otto Fischer. Mostly famous for his masted ships rolling over foaming waves, Fischer also was great at painting people. This slice-of-landlubber-life captures the action perfectly. Interesting catcher’s mitt!

 

Oregon Baseball
John Clymer
April 21, 1951

Artist John Clymer was known for his beautiful landscapes. Sure, he manages here to paint Oregon in all its spring glory, pink blooms, Mount Hood and all. But the eye is drawn here to the fine pitching form of Miss Pigtails and the concentration of the batter. The trees may be budding and the grass greening, but kids’ thoughts turn to baseball. It must be spring!

Descriptions by Diana Denny.

News of the Week: New TV Shows, Expensive Phones, and Why People Steal All the Jack Kerouac

Is Your DVR as Full as Mine?

The new TV season is just about here. One show I’ve been waiting for, Fox’s The Orville, has already debuted, and I like it. I’m still not sure if it’s a sendup of Star Trek, a sincere homage, or both, but it’s a fun show and I’m going to keep watching.

It would take the entire column to list all the new shows that are coming to our screens and when they premiere, so I’ll leave that to the people who write about television full-time, including Kate Aurthur and Jarett Wieselman at BuzzFeed, Robert Lloyd at The Los Angeles Times, and Sophie Gilbert at The Atlantic. And of course, check out TV Guide for their big annual fall preview issue. They have all of the premiere dates for both new and returning shows.

I still have 20 or 30 episodes of various TV shows to catch up on from last season. I used to write about TV full-time, but I don’t know if I could do it today. With the addition of Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and other streaming services to an already crowded broadcast and cable schedule, watching television has, in a way, become exhausting.

I Will Never Spend $1,000 on a Phone

I’m an Apple loyalist and have been since around 1985, but there’s a limit to that loyalty. This week, Apple released new products and updates to old products. There’s the iPhone 8, and new features for the Apple Watch (which bring it even closer to Dick Tracy territory), and there’s also a special iPhone X. Please don’t say “ex,” as the X stands for 10.

It costs $1,000.

I don’t currently own a cellphone, but when I get one, it’s going to be a dumbphone, one that simply — gasp! — makes phone calls. I’m already online 10 hours a day on my laptop, so I don’t need to be tempted when I’m at the supermarket or at a restaurant. The X has a nicer screen, longer battery life, can be unlocked using facial recognition, has no “home” button (everything is touch-screen now), and you can now turn your face into an emoji, if you’ve always wanted to turn your face into an emoji.

If you’re wondering why they went from the iPhone 8 to the 10, I don’t know. Maybe the 9 will come out as a rare, “lost” edition next year.

People Have Already Forgotten about Fidget Spinners

Maybe the iPhone X will be one of the hot toys this December (though I don’t know if anything that costs $1,000 can be considered a toy). Every year around this time, news shows and morning shows and websites start to release their lists of the toys they think every single kid is going to want to find under the tree this Christmas.

A lot of people go by Walmart’s annual list, and this year they’ve picked 25 toys they think will sell big, including littleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, Barbie DreamHorse and Doll (that’s horse, not house), Fisher-Price Zoom ’n’ Crawl Monster, the Soggy Doggy Board Game, and Hatchimals, which were popular before but are making a big comeback, like denim overalls and bubonic plague.

I don’t even know if anything on that list would interest me even if I were 9 years old. Don’t kids still play outside or at least enjoy board games?

Who Is Stealing All the Bukowski and Kerouac?

I don’t know what the statute of limitations is on something like this, but I have a confession to make. When I was a little kid, I stole a book from a bookstore. It was one of those pocket guides to space and the planets (it was the “pocket” aspect that made it easy to steal). I’m not going to try to justify the theft, but in my defense, I will say that I was really into space when I was young.

Adults steal books too, like ones by Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. They’re always on the top of the list when it comes to books that are stolen, and have been for many years. In this interview by NPR’s Scott Simon, the owner of Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, discusses what books get stolen the most and the theories on why the same authors are targeted.

What I would tell these people is that it’s wrong to steal. But if you are going to steal, let me know and I can give you the names of some other authors you might like.

The Worst Thing Since Jack the Ripper

This is both fascinating and disgusting.

Beneath London, there’s a monster. It’s not a living creature that’s set to devour you, but it might be even worse. They’re calling it the Whitechapel fatberg, and it’s a giant mass of fat, disposable wipes, condoms, diapers, and other gross things Londoners have discarded that is clogging a century-old stretch of the city’s sewer system. It’s a sixth of a mile long, weighs 140 tons, and is bigger than a similar thing that was found beneath London a few years ago. Now I’m going to stop writing about this because it’s freaking me out.

Wasn’t Fatberg the name of a chubby character from an ’80s teen comedy movie?

RIP Don Ohlmeyer, Troy Gentry, Don Williams, Edith Windsor, Blake Heron, Gene Michael, Sugar Ramos, Jerry Pournelle, Len Wein, Jack Keil

Don Ohlmeyer was a veteran TV executive who was not only famous for being one of the first producers of Monday Night Football and for playing a huge role in NBC’s “Must-See TV” lineup in the 1980’s and ’90s, he’s famous for firing Saturday Night Live’s Norm Macdonald after Macdonald made too many jokes about Ohlmeyer’s friend O.J. Simpson. Ohlmeyer died Sunday at the age of 72.

Troy Gentry was part of the popular country duo Montgomery and Gentry, known for such songs as “My Town” and “Headlights.” He died in a helicopter crash last Friday at the age of 50.

Don Williams was a country star too. He started playing in bands in the mid-’60s and eventually became popular as a solo artist in the ’70s with songs like “The Shelter of Your Eyes” and “I Wouldn’t Want to Live If You Didn’t Love Me.” Williams died last Friday at the age of 78.

Edith Windsor became a champion of gay rights when she was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case where the court decided that gay couples have a right to get married in any state, just like heterosexual couples, and are also entitled to the same benefits. Windsor died Tuesday at the age of 88.

Actor Blake Heron was probably best known for his role at age 13 in the 1996 film Shiloh. He later appeared in TV shows like Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher, Good vs. Evil, ER, The Practice, and Justfied, as well as many movies. Heron died last week at the age of 35.

Gene Michael played for the New York Yankees in the late ’60s and early ’70s and even managed the team in the ’80s, but he found even more success in the ’90s as an executive, where he built the Yankees into a championship team. One of his big moves was signing Derek Jeter. Michael died last Thursday at the age of 79.

Sugar Ramos was a boxer who is unfortunately best known for winning his 1963 fight with Davey Moore. Though Moore survived the fight and even talked at a press conference later, he collapsed and fell into a coma shortly afterward; he died three days later. Ramos passed away Sunday at the age of 75.

Jerry Pournelle was an award-winning writer known for several classic works of science fiction and nonfiction. He was also a columnist for Byte and Galaxy and maintained the popular blog Chaos Manor. He died last Friday at the age of 84.

Len Wein was a comic book artist who worked on many series and created the characters Wolverine and Swamp Thing. He died Sunday at the age of 69.

Jack Keil not only created McGruff the Crime Dog, he provided the voice for the character. He died August 25 at the age of 94.

The Current War

Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) is a good actor who seems to be in everything these days, including the new movie The Current War. He plays Thomas Edison, and the film explores the battle between Edison and George Westinghouse for the control of electricity. It opens on November 24. Here’s the trailer.

Here’s Post Archive Director Jeff Nilsson on Edison’s solution to copyright theft. Edison only made money from one of his many patents in his lifetime.

This Week in History

“United Colonies” Becomes “United States” (September 9, 1776)

The original thirteen colonies became the United States after the U.S. declared independence from Britain and defeated them in the Revolutionary War.

President McKinley Dies 8 Days After Being Shot (September 14, 1901)

McKinley isn’t as instantly well known as many other presidents, but he is one of only four that were assassinated. He’s also on the $500 bill. I don’t know how many of you have a $500 bill in your wallet, but go check to see what he looked like.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Morning Coffee Break” (September 12, 1959)

I’m not a parent, so I have a question for all the people out there with children: Does this cover by Amos Sewell accurately depict what it’s like when summer is over and the kids finally go back to school? You love them and hold them close, and it’s great they’re on summer break, but you’re manically happy when September rolls around and they’re out of your hair so you can read the pap … I mean browse Facebook and drink your coffee in peace?

September Is National Biscuit Month

It was cool last week, but this week, summer returned with a muggy vengeance in my part of the country. It’s so warm, I had to go back to drinking cold beverages instead of hot tea. But the cold days and nights will be here soon enough, so it’s time for biscuits.

Here’s a recipe from Paula Deen for Homemade Biscuits, and since they’re from Paula Deen, you know there’s going to be a lot of butter and sugar. If you want something a little healthier, how about this Healthy Chicken Pot Pie that utilizes flaky refrigerator biscuits.

If you decide to make the pot pie and go to the store for the biscuits, please don’t steal them.