In Boston, Casey did his managing while coaching at third base, as he had much of the time in Brooklyn and as McGraw had in his early years. He concentrated, as he did in Brooklyn, in trying to help the too-few young players with talent improve themselves. He was reunited with Lopez, who had been his catcher in Brooklyn and whom he respected so much. (Lopez had also invested in the oil venture, so in that sense they were partners.)
As for the team on the field, it wasn't much good, but no worse than the Dodgers had been. And the city itself was highly appealing to the Stengels, who appreciated its cultural ambiance, its uniqueness, and the slight edge of hysteria on which so many of its citizens seemed to live. What it didn't have was a receptive press corps. In New York, the writers had been Casey's best friends and loved his crazy humor; in Boston, a more narrowly competitive newspaper community took itself more seriously and judged acceptability only in terms of winning and losing -- and not without reason, one must say, since in the nineteen baseball seasons from 1919 through 1937, their two baseball teams had finished seventh or eighth twenty-one times and never as high as third.
So what had been funny in Brooklyn brought sneers and increasing antagonism in Boston. Casey's 1938 team did just about what McKechnie's 1937 team had done, finishing fifth at 77-75 instead of 79-73 (but still 7 games better than the Dodgers under Grimes). Then the Bees settled into seventh place for four years in a row. In addition, the ballpark itself, Braves Field, was deteriorating; attendance was averaging less than 300,000 a year; and there was a war on.
Stengel's tenure came to an end in 1943. There were new owners, headed by a construction magnate named Lou Perini, who didn't relate to Casey's double talk. Just before the season started, Stengel was hit by a car and had to spend weeks in the hospital, acquiring the permanent limp that would characterize his gnomelike movement from then on. After a sixth-place finish, Quinn told him the new owners wanted him gone. "Let them buy me out," Stengel said, referring to his stock, and went quietly.
He was fifty-three, financially secure enough, with a nice place to live in Glendale. Always aware of what was going on in the world at large, he knew that the twentieth century, in 1944, was passing through a fulcrum point, with the war still undecided. His profession had been baseball for thirty-four years, and the shape of postwar baseball wasn't at all clear. Maybe it was time to adjust to another way of life.
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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