Stengel’s Brilliant Play In Ninth Inning Wins Good Game For Giants

Damon Runyon

The Bulletin (Pomona, CA)/October 11, 1923

First Day’s Battle on New York Stadium Grounds Marked With Sensational Plays, While Crowds Yell Themselves Hoarse


YANKEE STADIUM, NEW YORK, Oct. 10. This is the way old “Casey” Stengel ran, running his home run home to a Giant victory over the Yankees by a score of 5 to 4 in the first game of the world’s series of 1923.

This is the way:

His mouth wide open—

His warped-out legs bending beneath him at every stride—

His arms flying back and forth, like those of a man swimming with a crawl stroke—

And None Laughed

His flanks heaving, his breath whistling, his head far back.

Yankee infielders, passed by old “Casey” Stengel as he was running his home run home, say “Casey” was muttering to himself, adjuring himself to greater speed, as a jockey mutters to his horse in a race, that he was saying:

“Gon on, Casey.”

People generally laugh when they see old “Casey” Stengel run, but they were not laughing while he was running his home run home this afternoon. People—sixty thousand of ’em—men and women, were standing in the Yankee stands and bleachers up there in the Bronx roaring sympathetically, whether they were for or against the Giants:

“Come on, Casey.”

The warped old legs, twisted and bent by many a year of baseball campaigning, just barely held out until “Casey” Stengel reached the plate running his home run home.

They then collapsed.

Warped Old Legs

“Casey” Stengel’s warped old legs, one of them broken not so long ago, wouldn’t carry him out for the next inning when the Yankees made a dying effort to undo the damage done by “Casey.” His place in centerfield was taken by young Bill Cunningham, whose legs are still unwarped, and “Casey” sat on the bench with John J. McGraw.

No one expected much of “Casey” Stengel when he appeared at the plate in the Giants side of the ninth inning, the score a tie at 4 to 4.

Ross Young and “Irish” Meusel, stout, dependable hitters, had been quickly disposed of by the superb pitching of “Bullet Joe” Bush.

No one expected Stengel to accomplish anything where they had failed. Hush, pitching as only Hush can pitch in an emergency, soon had two strikes and three balls on “Casey.” He was at the plate so long that many fans were fidgeting nervously, wondering why he didn’t hurry up and get put out, so the game could go on.

Who knows but what “Bullet Joe” may have been thinking of “Casey” Stengel more as a comedian than as a dangerous hitter when he delivered that final pitch this afternoon? Pitchers sometimes let their wits go wool-gathering. “Bap—

Bat Connects

Stengel’s bat connected with the last pitch, leisurely, solidly. The ball sailed out over left field, moving high, moving far.

“Long Bob” Meusel and Whitey Witt, the Yankee outfielders, raced toward each other as they marked the probable point the ball would alight, and in the meantime “Casey” Stengel was well advanced on his journey, running his home run home.

As the ball landed between Meusel and Witt it bounded as if possessed toward the left center field fence. Everybody could see it would be a home run inside the yard if Casey Stengel’s warped old legs could carry him around the bases.

Witt got the ball about the time Stengel hit third, and Witt thought Stengel was labor “all out.” Witt threw the ball in to Bob Meusel, who had dropped back and let Witt go out.

Meusel wheeled and fired for the plate, putting all his strength behind the throw. Few men have ever lived who can throw a baseball as well as Bob Meusel.

Stengel was almost home when Meusel’s throw was launched, and sensing the throw “Casey” called on all that was left in those warped old legs, called, no doubt, on all the baseball gods to help him—and they helped.

It is something to win a world’s series game with a home run, and that home run inside the yard.

John J. McGraw perhaps feels that his judgment in taking Stengel on at a time when “Casey” was a general big league outcast, has been vindicated.

Origin of Name

If you are curious to know the origin of the nickname “Casey,” it might be explained that Stengel’s home town is Kansas City. The nickname comes from “K. C.” One of those many little coincidences that are always popping out in baseball is the fact that Stengel and “Bullet Joe” are great pals. They made the tour of Japan last winter as roommates.

Stengel is around thirty-three, if you are seeking more information about the first hero of the world’s series of 1923. They call that old in baseball. He has been with the Giants since 1921, from the Philadelphia club. He Is all right, “Casey” Stengel is, and you can prove it by John J. McGraw.

The expected struggle of Mind vs. Matter or Intelligence against Brute Force, with John J. McGraw representing the one, and Babe Ruth the other, did not materialize. Both sides began belting the ball so freely in the game that thinking was not there.

Ruth got a three-bagger, and was cheated out of another hit through an astonishing play by Long George Kelly, perhaps one of the most sensational plays ever seen in a world’s series.

Kelly Gets Hit

Kelly got a hit from Ruth’s bat with one hand at a seemingly impossible angle and threw a man out at the plate. Quite as sensational was a play by Frankie Frisch, who backed out into short right field, caught a short fly from Bob Meusel’s bat, turned and threw Ruth out at the plate. This was immediately after Ruth’s three-bagger. Perhaps if “Casey” Stengel had not run his home run, Frisch’s play would be picked as the feature of the whole afternoon. The Yanks were three runs ahead of the Giants when McGraw’s men caught and passed then, hammering Waite Hoyt for all their runs except Stengel’s home run. It was the first real bad inning the one-time Brooklyn school boy ever had in a world’s series, so say the experts.

Bush took Hoyt’s place and pitched marvelous ball. Poor Bush, as usual, suffered from the “breaks,” from the bad luck of the game. He has been in a number of world’s series, and was always what baseball calls a “tough luck pitcher” in them. He won one game for the Athletics in his first year in the big league, since then he has been a consistent loser.

The Yanks drove John Watson, of Louisiana, from the game early. Then Wilfred Ryan did the pitching for McGraw’s men—and did it well. The Yanks out-hit the Giants, however, twelve to eight.

It seems to the writer that the Yanks were very stupid in some of their base running. At least one example cost them a run.

However, it was a great game for the spectators. A thrill a minute, finally topped off by the real big thrill of “Casey” Stengel running home his home run.

Of course, there were many more persons at the game yesterday than attended any game in 1911. There were twice as many as saw any one game of that pleasant year, in fact, but there  was less than half the anticipation and excitement. You have to have two different cities in a world’s series to get up any real excitement, to inspire that feeling of hatred toward one club or the other that is the essence of the series. This was all home stuff today, about the only aliens on hand being the visiting newspaper experts up the mezzanine stand.

The alien experts viewed the proceedings quite dispassionately. They did not care a whoop which side won, although the boys from National League towns rather leaned toward the Giants. Wild Will Phelon, the famed Cincinnatian, for instance, was quite intense in his desire to see McGraw’s men win, though Will spend the summer months hating McGraw and all things that pertain to McGraw.

The leader of the Giants showed himself in civilian clothes before the game, lending himself to various postures for the benefit of the camera men, who thronged the field. Then he retired with great dignity to the Giant bench behind first base to assume his reputed role of “the thinker.”

In the old days, McGraw used to rock on his heels off third base and squeal his orders through his cupped hands at his men. Now he sits on the bench and thinks, and thinks, and thinks.

Among McGraw’s poses was one with Babe Ruth and Nick Altrock, the famous old baseball clown. Nick was once a great left-hand pitcher, figuring in a world’s series in the days of Chicago’s “hitless wonders,” the White Sox. His baseball usefulness is far behind him, save as a diamond jester. Nick is gifted with a positive genius for pantomime. The baseball crowd love him and he is hired to amuse the world’s series gatherings, though he belongs to the Washington club.




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