Today is July 30th, which is one of the most important dates in baseball history. Why? It's Casey Stengel's birthday. The Ol' Perfessor was born on July 30, 1890, which would make him 120 years old if he hadn't died in 1975, but as he once said, "Most people my age are dead at the present time." He won seven World Series as manager of the Yankees and ushered in the Amazin' Mets, while also leading the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves back in the '30s and '40s. He also had a 14-year career as an outfielder, with the Dodgers, Pirates, Phillies, Giants and Braves, from 1912 to 1925. He was a World Series winner with the in 1922, and the following year he won a World Series game when he hit an inside-the-park home run against the Yankees. In 1914 he led the NL in OBP, with a .404 mark. He finished with a .284 lifetime average, 60 home runs, 535 RBIs and 131 stolen bases. More than a manager or player, though, Stengel was probably the greatest character in the history of baseball. Once, in 1919 as a member of the Pirates with the Brooklyn crowd booing him, he stepped up to the plate then tipped his cap to the crowd as a sparrow, which he had hidden underneath his hat, flew off his head.
Casey was the first Met legend, deflecting the attention of the press away from the poor play of his team onto himself, with his high jinks, antics and twisted, tortured "Stengelese." He was also the first person inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, in 1981 (with original owner Joan Payson). This Sunday, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Frank Cashen and Davey Johnson will be the newest members to be enshrined in the team's Hall of Fame (though maybe the day should double as an intervention for Gooden). Who was the first player ever inducted? Bud Harrelson, in 1982. The obvious Met greats, such as Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Rusty Staub, were still playing at the time. The team has not honored a player since 2002, when Tommie Agee was enshrined. It's about time they got the ball rolling again, and finally put these four Met greats in there. There are now a total of 25 people sitting in the team's Hall of Fame, and 11 of them were either broadcasters, owners, managers or executives. Click here for the full list. The Yankees can have Monument Park and the Baseball Hall of Fame - the Mets have Ed Kranepool, Tug McGraw, Mookie Wilson and Bob Murphy.
Here are the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports:
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Minaya: Well, it's almost a certainty that Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel will not one day be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. They should have been fired after 2008 . . . and 2009 . . . and this week . . . But it's "let's do nothing and pray that everything falls into place and goes perfectly" time again in Queens. Not even one coach was let go, which was surprising, since the Mets like to do the scapegoat thing to cover up the real problems that are going on. Manuel held a team meeting in Arizona. The result? Four losses in the next five games, which finished off a pathetic 2-9 road trip. What should Manuel have done? Bring in that drill sergeant from the Geico commercial to rip the team a new one by calling them a bunch of jack-wagons, throw a box of Kleenex at them and tell them to quit being crybabies, stop living in mamby-pamby land and start winning. Of course, once they got back to Citi Field, they flicked on a switch, and instantly became a different team, resurrecting their offense for an 8-2 shellacking of the Cardinals. Maybe not having the suspended Manuel around had something to do with it. In game two, they got a moral victory, but as David Wright noted, those "don't count in the standings." And thanks to The Incredible R.A. Dickey, the Mets won their first series since all the way back in June. Now that Dickey's become a folk hero, kids all over the New York area are learning to throw a knuckleball, growing scruffy beards, being called by their initials and are telling their teachers, "When I grow up I'm going to have my ulnar collateral ligament removed, become a journeyman pitcher, not have any success until I'm 35 - and I hope to slightly resemble Paul Giamatti."
The March to 600: There really wasn't any question whether the Yankees would win their series against the Royals (they did, of course, winning three out of four) or the Indians (they did, of course, winning three out of four), so the real buzz was if Alex Rodriguez would blast his 600th home run. While the Yankees were getting contributions from a resurgent Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez, A-Rod didn't come close to belting a dinger (though I did get to congratulate my daughter for watching iCarly for the 600th time). Let's face it, Yankee fans are the only ones who really care about that milestone anyway, since it's tainted and A-Rod's never really been very popular with baseball fans as it is. He just rubs people the wrong way. Whether it's the whole narcissistic making out with himself in the mirror thing, the PED cheating, the hundred-million-dollar contracts or the Slap Heard Round the World, he's just a hard guy to root for. He's the smarmy rich kid in every 1980s teen movie, which would make him the James Spader of baseball I guess (though he could have had a Sixteen Candles moment on his birthday on Tuesday, which would have made him Molly Ringwald, but he grounded out to end the game). Derek Jeter would, of course, then be the bland good guy, making him Andrew McCarthy. Nick Swisher would be Jon Cryer, with Joba Chamberlain as Emilio Estevez and Mark Teixeira as Anthony Michael Hall. I'm just not sure which Yankee is Long Duk Dong yet. We'll figure it out, though.
The Yanks & the Tribe: Speaking of Cleveland (was I even speaking of Cleveland?), let's go off on a little tangent here. Back in the 1920s, the Yankees started their dynasty by fleecing the Red Sox of its best players, and in the 1950s, there was a running joke (or maybe it was serious) that the Kansas City A's were the minor league affiliate to the Bombers, since the A's kept trading all their good players to the Yankees. But Cleveland has also been a hot bed of talent for the Yankees to pluck, even though they didn't acquire all the players directly from the Indians, as some had pit stops between their time in Ohio and the Bronx. Going all the way back to the team's first World Series, in 1923, the Yankees featured Sad Sam Jones in their rotation. He won 21 games for the first-time champion Yankees, but he started his career in Cleveland. The third baseman for the 1932 champion Yanks was Hall of Famer Joe Sewell, who spent most of his career with the Indians. Pitching great Allie Reynolds, who won six World Series with the Yankees in the late '40s and early '50s, was brought to the Bronx in a trade with Cleveland for Joe Gordon. He pitched two no-hitters in 1950, and made five All-Star teams while a member of the Bombers. Gene Woodling and Roger Maris also started their careers with the Tribe. In the George Steinbrenner era, the Boss, an Ohio native of course, brought over a myriad of Indians to play for his team: Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow, Oscar Gamble, Fred Stanley, Walt "No Neck" Williams, Lou Piniella (six games with the Indians), Tommy John, Ron Hassey, Mel Hall, David Justice, Kenny Lofton and most recently CC Sabathia. Big Stein also imported executives and managers from Cleveland, including Gabe Paul, Al Rosen and Bob Lemon. Is there a lesson in all this? Probably not, just that the Indians have made some questionable trades over the years in which the Yankees have benefitted. And I just wanted an excuse to mention Sad Sam Jones, Fred Stanley and Dick Tidrow. We're not sure if Clu Haywood started his career with Cleveland, though, but it's entirely possible.
Ouch: After whining and moaning about being placed on the DL, John Maine is now out for the season. Rod Barajas strained his oblique and has been put on the DL. (Mike Hessman - who kind of looks like a cross between Frank Howard and George Theodore - was called up to replace him on the roster. As Gary Cohen noted, the third baseman is a real-life Crash Davis, as he's the active career leader in minor league home runs, with 329. No word yet if he'll be walking off into the sunset with Susan Sarandon.) Jason Bay has a concussion - he's Canadian, so he should just be able to shake it off and get back on the ice, but now it looks like it's something that will linger. R.A. Dickey was forced to leave Sunday's game early. He wouldn't get off the mound so he was taken away in handcuffs. He didn't miss a start, though, pitching a gem in yesterday's matinee. Jorge Posada has a cyst behind his knee, but he says "It only bothers me when I catch." Joba Chamberlain was demoted this week. And Sergio Mitre was one-and-done as Andy Pettitte's rotation replacement, as Dustin Moseley started in his place last night and went six strong innings.
As the World Turns: The Ilya Kovalchuk soap opera continued this week. When we last left the Russian winger, he had signed a 117-year contract with the Devils, which was rejected by the NHL because they just didn't believe the former Thrasher would still be able to play when he's 144 years old. The NHLPA filed a grievance, so the case will go to arbitration. If the Devils win, they get Kovalchuk on their terms. If they lose, he becomes a free agent, and the Devils will have to move back to Colorado and become the once again.
New Giant: The Giants signed veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck last weekend. Linebacker is surely the weakest position and biggest question mark for Big Blue heading into the 2010 season. Bulluck's coming off knee surgery, but acquiring the tackling machine was a gamble the Giants needed to take. His contract is a reasonable one-year deal worth just over $2 million, so it was a smart move for the team. Their projected starter at middle linebacker was going to be John Mendenhall, who they were thinking of moving from defensive tackle, but he's 61 years old and long retired, so he might not have been up to the task.
New Ranger: The Blueshirts signed former King Alexander Frolov to a one-year, $3-million deal. The contract's a bargain, and the 28-year-old left winger can only help an offense that lacks . . . offense. He likes to dig into the corners and hang around in front of the net, which is music to every Rangers projected top-line left winger was going to be John Mendenhall . . . oh, never mind.fan's ears. He fills a hole, as the
New Jet: Mark Brunell was brought in by Gang Green to mentor Mark Sanchez. The soon-to-be-40-year-old three-time Pro Bowler will be joining his fifth team, but he did win a Super Bowl ring last season with the Saints. The Jets couldn't have made a smarter decision. Who better to advise Sanchez than the guy who was doling out pearls of wisdom to the Super Bowl MVP? And the Jets are close to signing Laveranues Coles. Again.
Hall of Famer: Whitey Herzog was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this past Sunday. He's most famous for managing the Angels). So what does this have to do with New York? Well, Herzog was an influential figure in Mets history. He joined the organization in 1966 as its third base coach, but the following year he became the team's director of player development, lasting until 1972. He was at the helm while the Mets were churning out Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Gary Gentry, Jon Matlack, Amos Otis, Ken Singleton and John Milner. One of the big mistakes the Mets made was not having Herzog take over as GM after Johnny Murphy died in 1970 or choosing him as Gil Hodges' successor. He knew all about the young talent the Mets were stockpiling, and was against trading all their youth for the likes of Joe Foy and Jim Fregosi. Would the Mets have had a different fate if they put Herzog in charge? The answer would have surely been yes.and Royals to six division titles, three pennants and one World Series (while also briefly managing the Rangers and
(For in-depth analysis and discussion of the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Rangers and Devils, go to SB Nation's Pinstripe Alley, Amazin' Avenue, Big Blue View, Gang Green Nation, Blueshirt Banter and In Lou We Trust, respectively.)