The Dodger team of 1932 did rather well, finishing third and ahead of the fourth-place Giants for the first time since 1920. But Carey, as manager, was doomed to anonymity. At the Polo Grounds, McGraw had turned the Giants over to Bill Terry, a blockbuster story if ever there was one. At Yankee Stadium, the Yankees, in Joe McCarthy's second year, were tearing the league apart and dethroning the Philadelphia A's. And at Ebbets Field, where the zaniness of the Robins had been so firmly impressed on the public consciousness for a decade, the voice that the town's brightest baseball writers gravitated to was the familiar one of Stengel's, more garrulous than ever, not the rather grim and straight utterances of Carey.
The Dodger team of 1933 didn't do so well. It fell to sixth while the Giants, under Terry, won the World Series. Attendance, which had peaked at 1,000,000 in 1930, was down to 600,000. The Depression was pinching harder and harder, and the two-faction ownership remained paralyzed. In an attempt to get some direction, they brought in a professional general manager, Bob Quinn, who saw the need for attracting attention was well as trying to win more games.
Shortly after Quinn took over, Terry made an offhand remark that became baseball legend. While summing up prospects for 1934, he was asked about Brooklyn. "Haven't heard a peep from there," said Terry. "is Brooklyn still in the league?"
Quinn seized upon this comment to whip up Brooklyn's always available antagonism for New York, blasted Terry for issuing such an insult, and expected Carey to jump into the war of words. Carey, home in Florida, had no taste for that sort of thing. Quinn got angry at him, and they had words that led to Quinn firing Carey even though the manager had a year left on his contract.
Then Quinn offered the job to Stengel, who certainly could provide the colorful regime he was looking for. After checking with Carey -- since loyalty was at the top of the list of Casey's self-imposed morality -- he accepted the job with Carey's blessing, and got a two-year contract himself.
Two days later, McGraw died.
As a mouthpiece, Casey was everything Quinn could hope for. He pounced on the Terry remark and wouldn't let up. Terry became Brooklyn's most hated enemy. But that didn't alter the fact that the Giants had a good team and the Dodgers didn't. As the 1934 season reached its final weekend, the Giants were fighting the Cardinals for the pennant and the Dodgers were locked solidly into sixth place.
All through September, which the Giants entered with a big lead, the Cards kept winning and the Giants kept breaking even. With two days to go, the teams were tied for first place -- and the Giants had to play the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds while the Cards played Cincinnati.
On Saturday, Stengel unleashed his fire-balling right-hander, Van Lingle Mungo, who stifled the Giant hitters and won 5-1. A Cardinal victory that day clinched at least a tie for St. Louis. On Sunday, although the Giants got off to a 4-0 lead, the Dodgers came back and won again, 8-5. The Cardinals won too, and finished 2 games ahead.
Yes, chortled all of Brooklyn toasting Stengel, we're still in the league.
But still sixth, and in 1935 fifth, and in 1936 seventh. After the 1934 ending, Quinn had given Stengel a three-year contract, but in 1936 he himself had moved to Boston to try to straighten out the Fuchs-Ruth-McKechnie debacle there. The bank, which held all sorts of notes from the Dodger owners, was taking a greater role in demanding Dodger improvement, while pinching pennies harder than ever. Stengel was being perceived more and more as a clown, a role he played to the hilt, which was fine with fans and writers but not with bookkeeper mentalities. And, as a manager, Stengel was trying to apply McGraw principles (about tactics, practice, and mechanics) to insufficient talent.
After the 1936 season, management decided to replace him with Burleigh Grimes and paid off Stengel's final year. "I'm getting paid more not to manage than he is to do it," Stengel observed, not concealing his sense of embarrassment at being in such a situation. He spent 1937 out of baseball, learning something about the oil business (in which one of his 1936 players from Texas had persuaded him to invest), missing the New York spotlight, and most of all missing baseball itself.
And once again, unrelated events worked in his favor. Quinn, in Boston, was working for new owners, with Fuchs out of the picture. McKechnie had just left for a better situation in Cincinnati. Quinn had liked Stengel in Brooklyn. He brought him now to Boston. He also changed the name of the team to the Boston Bees and let Stengel buy a small piece of the club.
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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