The prevailing image of Casey Stengel is of a befuddled grandfatherly figure during his years as the manager of the so-bad-they're-lovable-Mets. He was great at doubletalk, but was long past his prime as a field general with the Yankees and was prone to snooze on the bench. But as with so may popular perceptions, there is much more to Stengel.
A George Vecsey column in today's New York Times paints a different picture of the Ol' Perfesser. First of all, Vecsey is incredulous that Stengel had a family and was anyone's uncle (ok, ok, I know it's a writing device). Secondly, and more interesting I think, is a memory the niece recounts of Stengel lying on the couch of his hotel room with stacks of fielding and hitting reports on his chest. Underneath the goofy exterior was a master strategist who prepared well.
This shouldn't be big surprise. After all, in his years leading the Yanks to championship after championship Stengel was known for platooning the players who complemented his stars like DiMaggio, Mantle and Berra. He always seemed to make the right move. I am guessing that was because of his preparation.
But the baseball genius of Stengel has been lost amid colorful quotations and the transcript of his famous Senate testimony regarding baseball's antitrust exemption. By the time he was done everyone was confused and entertained. That's probably just the way Stengel wanted it.