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Casey Stengel Becomes Brooklyn's Manager

Near the end of February, 1934, the Brooklyn Dodgers summoned coach Casey Stengel to New
York. The next day, General Manager Bob Quinn told Max Carey that he no longer was needed to
manage the Dodgers. Casey Stengel was named Brooklyn's new skipper. It was believed that
Stengel, who was given a two-year contract, would be paid at least $12,000 a season.

Casey Stengel enjoyed a joke, but he assured Brooklyn's fans that he was taking his new job
seriously. "Every one of the gentlemen directing this club wanted me to be manager. Darned if I
don't think I know a few things about baseball and I think I can teach baseball."

When Stengel coached for Brooklyn, he didn't hesitate to let an umpire know how felt. The great
Bill Klem made a call that went against the Dodgers in a game at Ebbets Field against New York.
Casey ran next to Klem, pulled off his uniform shirt, and pushed in Klem's face as he shouted,
"Here, wear this shirt for a while. You've been wearing a Giants' uniform all season."

National League president John Heydler fined Stengel, but there was no suspension. Imagine
what would happen today if a player expressed the opinion that he had been wearing the
opposition's uniform.

When Casey played for the Pirates, the famous bird incident occurred at Ebbets Field. As the
fans booed him, Casey calmly waved to the crowd, removed his cap, and released a little sparrow
that was under the cap. The crowd went wild, and the legend of Casey Stengel was established
forever.

When Casey took over the Dodgers, it didn't take long for him to do the unusual. Knowing that
Brooklyn would be facing many left-handers in the exhibition season, Stengel broke the Dodgers
into one team composed entirely of left-handed hitters, and the other team into almost all right-
handed hitters. In the intrasquad game, the left-handed hitters faced two left-handed pitchers,
while the righty hitters faced right-handers. Not surprisingly, the right handed hitters scored eight
runs batting against righties, but the lefties scored only one run on four hits against the south
paws.

Playing for the Giants under John McGraw, Stengel learned about platooning hitters. Years later,
when he managed the Yankees to five-consecutive World Championships, he platooned when
ever possible. Today, curve ball pitchers are rare, but when Stengel played and managed, there
was no slider, and most pitchers relied on the fastball, curve, and change-up. Having a curve ball
move toward the batter gave the batter an advantage. Since there were many more right-handed
pitchers, right-handed hitters saw curves from right handers much more than left-handed batters
saw curves from left-handers.

Brooklyn did well in the exhibition games and before the regular season opened, each manager
of New York's teams gave his analysis of the upcoming season. The Yankees' Joe McCarthy, who
finished second, seven games behind Washington in 1933, emphasized the risks involved in
making predictions, but said that his club had improved its defense, which should help his
pitching staff. Bill Terry, the manager of the defending World Champion Giants, noted that his
team had done poorly in the exhibition games, but emphasized that the purpose of spring training
was to get in shape, not win games. He predicted that the Giants would repeat as National
League pennant winners. Casey, who was taking over a Brooklyn team that was coming off a
sixth-place finish, 26 and a half games behind Terry's Giants, wouldn't predict a pennant but said,
"...the Dodgers will be in there making trouble. All my boys will be giving it the best that they've
got."

Brooklyn Dodgers Win in Casey Stengel's Managerial Debut at Ebbets Field

The Brooklyn Dodgers hosted the Boston Braves in the 1934 season opener. Casey Stengel
tabbed Van Lingle Mungo as his pitcher. Mungo was a 23-year-old right-hander who had been
Brooklyn's top winner the year before, winning 16 games with a 2.72 ERA. Braves' manager Bill
McKechnie was starting Fred Frankhouse, who had also been a 16-game winner in 1933.

Before a crowd of about 28,000 fans, Stengel's Dodgers beat Boston, 8-7. There were fireworks
before and during the game. A fan in a field box behind first base set off a string of firecrackers
just as the players and the band lined up to march to the flagpole for the playing of the national
anthem. The fireworks were followed by a large piece of bunting catching fire in the upper stands.
Fragments of burning bunting fell as fans in the lower stands ran for cover. The fireworks
perpetrator was not arrested because it was 1934, not 2009.

To add to the confusion, home plate umpire Ernest Quigley failed to allow Brooklyn borough
president Raymond Ingersoll to make the ceremonial first pitch. After Van Lingle Mungo delivered
a strike to Boston's Bill Urbanski, Quigley stopped play, gave Ingersoll the baseball, and the
politician pitched it to Brooklyn catcher Al Lopez.

One other bit of irony occurred. The Brooklyn Dodgers wore their new home uniforms for the first
time. No longer was "Dodgers" inscribed across the front of the jersey. It was replaced by
"Brooklyn."

After eight innings, Brooklyn led 8-4, but the Braves made it interesting. Boston had three runs in,
runners on first and third, two outs, and Pinky Whitney at the plate. Whitney hit a line drive to third
baseman Joe Stripp and the game was history. Stengel had thoughts of taking out Mungo in the
ninth inning, and he had two conferences, but the conferences were not with his pitcher. Stengel
spoke to catcher Al Lopez, not Mungo, before making his decisions. It was 1934, not 2009.

The Dodgers hit two home runs in the game, which was unexpected, since not one Brooklyn
player had hit as many as 10 home runs the previous season. The Dodgers lacked offense and
their pitching staff was basically Van Lingle Mungo, but it was a new season, there was a new
manager, and optimism reigns in April.

When each league consisted of eight teams, being in the top four finishers was usually
considered an accomplishment, especially for a team that had just finished sixth. Brooklyn fans
expected a first division finish, since Bill Terry's Giants seemed destined to repeat as champions.
Things moved slower in the 1930s, at least with respect to baseball, and moving up from sixth to
fourth was viewed as a step toward the goal of winning the pennant.

The Giants' Eddie Brannick said, "I'll put Brooklyn in fourth place. With Sunday baseball in
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Brooklyn won't have to make those Saturday night jumps back home
to get in a Sunday game. "Furthermore Bob Quinn (Brooklyn general manager) is a fine fellow
and some of my best friends are Brooklynites."

Casey Stengel's Brooklyn Dodgers Counted on a Hack Wilson Comeback

Beating Boston on opening day was great, but it was a long season, and the Dodgers were a
team with many problems. They lacked pitching depth, and were offensively challenged. One
hope they had was that Hack Wilson, who set the National League single season home run
record when he hit 56 in 1930 and who set the still-standing single season RBI record of 190
(corrected to 191), would return to form.

Hack Wilson was traded to Brooklyn in 1932. After his record 1930 season, Wilson's .356 batting
average fell almost 100 points to a pedestrian .261, and his home run total dropped from 56 to
13. The explanation was that Cubs' manager Joe McCarthy could control Wilson and his alcohol
problem, but McCarthy left after the 1930 season to manage the Yankees. Rogers Hornsby took
over the Cubs and there were reports of frequent clashes between Wilson and his new manager.
In August, disgusted with Wilson's lack of hitting and lifestyle, Hornsby suspended him for the
remainder of the season. Hack Wilson was soon traded to the Cardinals, who offered him a
contract calling for $7,500, which was a cut of $25,500 from what the Cubs had paid him. The
salary dispute resulted in the Cardinals sending Wilson to Brooklyn.

Wilson signed a one-year contract for $16,000 with Brooklyn. Wilson's reaction was remarkable
when viewed from the changes that have occurred since 1932. "The salary I am to receive is all
that I've wanted, for from the first I said that I fully deserve a cut of half of what I received last
year." Imagine Magglio Ordonez or Alex Rodriguez expressing such sentiments after a sub-par
season.

In 1932, Hack Wilson improved, but he would never come close to approaching his record-setting
season. Wilson hit 23 home runs to lead the Dodgers, batted in 123 runs, which was fourth best
in the league, and Wilson hit .297 as Brooklyn finished third, nine games behind the Cubs. But
Hack hit only nine home runs with 54 RBIs and a .267 batting average in 1933. However, Casey
Stengel was optimistic.

In January, 1934, the National League agreed to adopt the "faster" American League baseball. It
was acknowledged that the ball the American League used was not as fast or lively as the ball
both leagues used in 1930, when Wilson set his records, but it was livelier than the ball the
National League had been using. After 1930, the American League continued to use a baseball
that would help sluggers such as Babe Ruth, Jimmy Foxx, and Al Simmons, while the senior
circuit thickened the ball's cover, loosened the winding, and adjusted the stitching to allow the
pitcher to get a better grip.

On opening day at Ebbets Field, Wilson hit a home run to help Brooklyn defeat Boston, but he
injured his left ankle and was taken out of the game. He pinch hit unsuccessfully the next day,
striking out with the potential tying run on second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. hen he
returned from the injury, he was ineffective and Stengel was forced to bench him, but he still had
his moments.

In a game against the Cubs in late May, Wilson pinch hit a two-run home run in the ninth to tie the
game Brooklyn won in twelve innings. It was only Hack's fourth home run. On Aug. 8, Brooklyn
gave Hack Wilson his unconditional release. A few days later, Brooklyn was playing the Phillies in
Philadelphia, where it was announced that the Phillies had signed Hack Wilson. Less than one
month later, the Phillies announced that they had released Wilson because he had failed to hit.

The Brooklyn Dodgers Beat the New York Giants on the Seventh Attempt

Casey Stengel's Brooklyn Dodgers hosted the hated New York Giants in a holiday double header
on May 31, 1934. Giants' manager Bill Terry had helped to fan the flames during the winter in a
New York Herald Tribune interview. "Is Brooklyn Still in the League?"

Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Chicago will be the teams we'll have to beat," Terry said. "I don't think
the Braves will do as well as they did last year." When asked if he feared the Dodgers, Bill Terry
responded, "I was just wondering whether they were still in the league."

The Brooklyn Dodgers-New York Giants rivalry was unrivaled in sports. It was intense during the
1930s despite Brooklyn being a second-division team for most of the decade, while the Giants
won three pennants and one World Series. Brooklyn was in sixth place, seven games behind the
first place Cardinals, while New York trailed by only one-half game, but although New York led the
second place Pirates by one-half game, the Pirates .606 winning percentage (20-13) put them
ahead of the Giants' .605 (23-15).

A record Ebbets Field crowd of 40,993 paid its way in to see Brooklyn ace Van Lingle Mungo lose
to Giants' lefty Bill Clark in the opener, 5-2, and then watched as Bill Terry's team took the
nightcap, 8-6. Ebbets Field had a seating capacity of about 34,500. There were more than 42,000
fans in the park when the first game started. More than 7,000 sat in the aisles or stood in the
runways. Dozens of Brooklyn loyalists were on perches located on the steel girders high in the
stands. About 300 young fans rushed the entrance to the bleachers at 10:30 and got in without
paying before the police could stop the onslaught. Several thousand fans were simply turned
away.

The teams had met for the first time in three game series at the Polo Grounds at the end of April,
with the Giants sweeping. This doubleheader was the middle of a four game set. The Giants won
the first game of the series, 4-3, behind the clutch relief pitching of Dolf Luque, who took over for
starter Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons in the seventh inning. It was a performance that illustrates how a
relief pitcher's statistics can mislead.

Trailing 4-0, Brooklyn hit three consecutive singles off Fitzsimmons to score one run and put two
runners on base. Luque came in and walked pinch-hitter Hack Wilson to load the bases. Buzz
Boyle singled home two runs to cut the lead to 4-3 with only one out, and then Luque walked
Lonny Frey to again load the bases, but Len Koenecke fouled out and Johnny Frederick struck
out. Luque allowed two runners in the eighth, and in the ninth, Brooklyn hit three line drives and
all were caught.

Casey Stengel was not pleased, but it was a long season. Brooklyn had lost regulars Joe Stripp
and Tony Cuccinello to injuries, and Danny Taylor to a virus. It got so bad that when Jim Bucher,
who was filling in for Cuccinello at second sprained his ankle in the fifth inning of the first game,
Stengel had to put catcher Al Lopez in to play second. The next day, Brooklyn won its first game
of the season from New York, 6-2.

Ray Benge, who had started the first game of the series and couldn't get through the fourth
inning, went the distance, allowing Bill Terry's team only two runs, but as was his style of almost
always allowing more hits than innings pitched, he gave up ten safeties. Brooklyn, trailing 1-0 in
the seventh inning, scored all six runs and held on for the win. After the game, Dodgers' vice-
president and treasurer Joseph Gilleaudeau bought every player a new hat. He had promised
them at the beginning of the season that the players would receive one every time they beat the
Giants.

The Brooklyn Dodgers Sign Old Tom Zachary

The 1934 Brooklyn Dodgers lacked solid pitching, but both Casey Stengel and general manager
Bob Quinn thought that the team had enough offense to compensate. In an attempt to bolster the
starting pitching, Quinn signed 38-year-old left hander Tom Zachary after Boston's other team had
released him. Casey Stengel wasn't sure. Zachary, in only 5 games, had been 1-2 with a 3.38
ERA. Ironically, his sole victory came at the expense of Brooklyn.

After getting off to a quick start, Stengel's team visited Boston, which many individuals have
discovered can be a harrowing experience. Braves Field was the opposite of hitter-friendly
Ebbets Field. The park was a pitcher's paradise, with the fences far from home plate. A strong,
prevailing wind off the Charles River knocked down most deep drives. After dropping the first two
games of the three game set, Brooklyn faced Tom Zachary.

The Braves managed to score two runs off Dutch Leonard in the first inning as Zachary went on
to blank Brooklyn on six hits. The ninth inning is a graphic illustration of how the game has
changed. Sam Leslie drew a one out walk, and after Tony Cuccinello lined out, Al Lopez doubled
to put the potential tying runs on base. Braves' manager Bill McKechnie never thought of
removing Zachary, who walked Glenn Chapman, batting for Leonard, to load the bases with
Brooklyns. Lonnie Frey then hit a hard ground ball that was turned into a game-ending force out.

Casey Stengel was not impressed with Zachary. "He pitches with an artery, not a muscle—his
pulse carries the ball up to the plate."
On June 15, Casey started Tom Zachary against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. He pitched adequately,
allowing nine hits, four walks, and four runs in a complete game, 6-4 victory. Zachary helped his
own cause with two hits, including the eventual game-winner that snapped a 3-3 tie in the sixth
inning that drove in Joe Stripp and Al Lopez.

Zachary's next start came against the Cardinals and Dizzy Dean. The aging lefty was shelled
from the mound in the fifth inning as the eventual National League pennant winners easily
defeated Brooklyn, 9-2. Tom was more successful, although again a loser, against the Giants on
July 7.

In the final game of a four game series against New York at Ebbets Field, Zachary started against
Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons in a game the Giants needed to get a split. Tom gave up a run in the
first, another in fifth, and confirmed what everyone knows. You can't win if your team doesn't
score. Fat Freddie blanked Brooklyn on three hits.

Zachary appeared in 22 games for Brooklyn in 1934, starting 12, completing four, and finishing
with a 5-6 record. His 4.43 ERA and 88 ERA+ indicated that he often lacked effectiveness, as did
the 122 hits he allowed in 101 2/3 innings. After the season, Stengel gave Zachary permission to
make a deal for himself with another team, but if he failed, his contract would be automatically
renewed. Zachary reported to spring training with Brooklyn. When asked how many games he
thought Old Tom Zachary would win for Brooklyn in 1935, Casey winked at the reporter and said,
"Five."

The Brooklyn Dodgers Dominated Hall-of-Famer Carl Hubbell

Carl Hubbell was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. Elected to the Hall-of-Fame in
1947, King Carl won 253 games, but just as Babe Ruth had his Hub Pruett, Carl Hubbell had the
Brooklyn Dodgers.

Brooklyn was in the midst of an eight game losing streak on June 30, 1934. It was not the half-
way point of the season, yet Casey Stengel's boys trailed the league-leading Giants by 14 games.
At the Polo Grounds for a three-game series, Brooklyn dropped the first game to Fat Freddie
Fitzsimmons, 7-2. The next day, Stengel gave the ball to Ray Benge, who would face Giants' ace,
Carl Hubbell.

It was Hubbell's first start of the season against Brooklyn. Giants' skipper Bill Terry usually made
sure that Hubbell would not face the Dodgers, and for good reason. Most teams dreaded facing
Hubbell, but Brooklyn wasn't one of them. The Flatbush sluggers were the only team to hold an
edge, beating him 20 times out of 29 decisions.

In 1933, Hubbell helped lead New York to the World Championship. He led the league with 23
wins, 10 shutouts, and a 1.66 ERA. Against Washington in the Series, he won two games and
didn't allow the American Leaguers an earned run. But he rarely beat Brooklyn.

Before a crowd of about 12,000 fans, Hubbell went to the hill to face Brooklyn lead-off batter Len
Koenecke. The former Giant doubled to right field, bringing up Joe Stripp, who put down a bunt
between the mound and first base. First baseman Bill Terry fielded the bunt, but made a poor
throw to Hubbell, who was covering first. Koenecke raced home with the first Brooklyn run as
Stripp wound up on second.

New York tied the game in the second, and it remained deadlocked until the sixth, when Brooklyn
scored twice. They knocked Hubbell out of the box in the seventh with a three-run outburst, and
scored twice in the ninth off Roy Parmalee, who was making his first appearance since suffering
from appendicitis. Ray Benge went the distance as Brooklyn won, 8-4. It was only the second
time in nine tries that the Dodgers had beaten the Giants.
Less than two weeks later, Carl Hubbell again took the mound at the Polo Grounds, but on this
day, he was facing a lineup that was a little more formidable than Brooklyn's. Hubbell, the
National League starting pitcher, waited patiently as Charlie Gehringer stepped into the left-
handed batters box. Hubbell peered in to get the signal from catcher Gabby Hartnett, nodded his
assent when Hartnett called for the screwball, went into the windup, and delivered the pitch.

Gehringer swung and hit a line drive to center field for a base hit. When Wally Berger fumbled the
ball, Gehringer took off for second and made it easily. Henie Manush was the next batter. He
walked, to put runners on first and second with no outs.

Hubbell looked around at his infield as he gathered his courage to face Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig,
and Jimmy Foxx. Ruth took ball one. The Babe never swung the bat as Hubbell threw three
consecutive screwballs for strike one, strike two, and strike three. Gehrig went down swinging on
four pitches, as Gehringer and Manush executed a double steal. Foxx then flailed helplessly at
the third screwball he saw to retire the side.

As the National Leaguers left the field, Frankie Frisch said to Bill Terry, "I could play second base
15 more years behind that guy. He doesn't need any help. He does it all by himself." In the
dugout, Terry, who was Hubbell's manager, slapped him on the arm, "That's pitching, boy." In the
second inning, staked to a 1-0 lead by a Frankie Frisch home run, Hubbell struck out Al Simmons
and Joe Cronin, before Bill Dickey broke the spell with a single. Lefty Gomez whiffed to retire the
side. In his last inning of work, Hubbell retired Gehringer on the fly to right, got Manush on an
infield grounder, walked Ruth, and retired Gehrig.

Carl Hubbell was masterful against some of the greatest players in baseball history. He was 4-2
with a 1.79 ERA in the World Series. From 1933-1937, he won at least 20 games. Starting July
17, 1936, until May 27, 1937, Carl Hubbell started 27 games, winning 24 and getting three no-
decisions. That's right. Brooklyn ended the streak.

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Hack Wilson at Baseball Library

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Carl Hubbell at Baseball-Almanac