Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Today in 1944: Casey Takes Charge

On this day seventy years ago, new Brewer manager Casey Stengel put on his uniform, stepped into the Borchert Field dugout and managed his first game with the club. Games, actually, a double-header with the Toledo Mud Hens.

Of course, the Milwaukee Journal's cameras were there to catch it all, and the following afternoon readers of the paper were treated to this photo series:

And what games those were.

In the opener, the Brewers presented their manager with an easy win, spotting the visiting Mud Hens two runs in the first inning. The Brews then countered with three in the bottom of the first and never looked back, scoring another at the bottom of the second and fifth and another three in the sixth. Toledo managed a face-saving run in their half of the ninth, but the game was even more lopsided than that 8-4 score would indicate.

The second game looked to be a repeat of the first, as the Brewers plated five runs in the third inning. They then let the Mud Hens back into the game, surrendering four in the next inning and one more in each of the fifth and sixth. Down 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh, the Brewers tied it up and took that tie to the bottom of the ninth. And then the Brewers' championship spirit shone through.

Centerfielder Hershel Martin came to the plate with two out and the bases empty. He singled, and moved to third on second baseman Tommy Nelson's double. Jim Pruett, Brewer catcher, came to the plate next. He was intentionally walked to get to the pitcher, Jack Farmer. That let Casey Stengel get into the act. The new Brewer skipper sat his pitcher down in favor of pinch-hitter Frank Secory. With the bases loaded, Secory worked the count and forced a walk to bring the winning run home.

Let's look more closely at the photos in the series:

(left to right) Casey says hello to Milwaukee / He talks on bench before game / He bows to a home run hitter

I wish we knew what Casey was saying, but none of the local papers recounted the text of his address to the Borchert Field crowd.

(left to right) Watching five run lead vanish /
Body English on double play

That last one is interesting, with its view of the back of Casey's uniform. Number 30 had been previously worn by Charlie Grimm. Casey did more than step into his shoes; he put on Jolly Cholly's jersey, too.

The Journal had this to say about the new manager's day:
Before Charley Grimm left here Saturday night to take over the Chicago Cubs, he told Casey Stengel, his successor at the helm of the league leading Brewers: "You've got a smart bunch of fellows. Let them do their own thinking at bat. That's what I've done and it has been very successful."

Late Sunday afternoon, after he had made an auspicious bow as Grimm's successor with a double triumph over Columbus, 8-4 and 7-6, to sweep the six-game series, Stengel remarked, "Grimm was right. This gang doesn't need any master minding on my part. They do right well on their own."
Meanwhile, in Chicago, Grimm began his own new job with a double-header of his own.

The fans welcomed Grimm with open arms, the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates somewhat less so. Grimm watched his new charges fall in both games, 6-5 and 3-2 in extra innings (14 and 11, respectively). The losing streak that had cost the previous Cubs' manager his job was extended to twelve games. I wonder if there was any time during that Sunday afternoon when Charlie Grimm thought of the powerhouse ballclub he had left behind in Milwaukee?

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