The Dodgers started 1913 by opening Ebbets Field, and Stengel was their center fielder. By May 1, he was hitting .352, but by the end of June he was down in the .290s, and on July 4 he injured his ankle and was out of action for nearly a month. When he came back, he didn't play well and the whole team, after a promising start, was settling into sixth place.
Dahlen had noticed, in going over last September's events, that Stengel's .316 broke down to .351 with 11 runs batted in against right-handers, and only.250 (5 singles) and 2 runs batted in against left-handers. In mid-August, he started using a right handed rookie instead of Stengel when a left-hander pitched.
Eventually, Stengel as manager became known as the master of platooning. He came by the idea honestly: he was being platooned in his first full season in the majors.
He was also acquiring his familiar name. His teammates started calling him "K.C." because he talked so much about Kansas City. At the same time, vaudeville was featuring DeWitt Hopper's recitation of "Casey at the Bat." Fans and players started saying, "Here comes Casey to the bat again", and one of baseball's most celebrated names quickly became permanent.
In 1914, Wilbert Robinson came over to manage the Dodgers, having had his falling out with McGraw at the end of the 1913 World Series. At his very first press conference, a few days after being hired, Uncle Robby gave an optimistic rundown of the Dodger lineup but noted it had too many left-handed hitters. He hoped he could get some right-handed outfielders, he said, to alternate with Stengel. Throughout his career, Casey would not be platooned always, but he would be repeatedly.
In 1913, he had hit .272. In 1914, Uncle Robby moved him to right field and he hit .316 as the Dodgers inched up to fifth place. The fans loved him for his panache and occasional clowning. The writers loved him for his uninhibited talk.
In 1915, though, he reported sick and underweight, and by midseason was hitting about .150. He revived, hit .300 the rest of the way (for a final .237), and by endless practice became a master of caroms off the odd, tilted right-field wall in Ebbets Field. The Dodgers moved up to third.
In 1916 they won the pennant. Stengel and his more famous teammates -- Zack Wheat, Jake Daubert, Rube Marquard -- were the toasts of Brooklyn, as was, of course, Uncle Robby. Stengel hit .279 and was frequently platooned.
And in 1917, the United States entered the war about the time the baseball season began. Casey, however, was already at war with Ebbets over salary. In 1915, with the Federal League available as an alternative, he had obtained a big ($6,000) two-year contract. Now, with the Feds gone, Ebbets and all the other club owners were systematically cutting salaries, and Stengel was offered a $1,400 cut. Casey held out, he wrote letters, he spoke freely to the press and anyone else who would listen; but in the end, of course, he had to give in, even with the public on his side. The other Dodgers, also disgruntled, had a bad year and finished seventh. Stengel knew his days with Ebbets were numbered.
Excerpted and reproduced From The Man In The Dugout, Expanded Edition: Baseball's Top Managers & How They Got That Way by Leonard Koppett, by permission of Temple University Press.
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