In the recently-concluded Stanley Cup Playoffs, Anaheim’s goalie, Jean-Sebastien Ciguerre, was rewarded with the Conn Smythe Trophy, symbolic of the MVP of the playoffs. He was truly fantastic. Going into Game 7, won by New Jersey, 3-0, Ciguerre registered an incredible 1.56 goals-against average in 20 playoff games over four series. Without him, Anaheim would have been watching the finals on television, as I did. But the Devils’ goaltender, Martin Brodeur, was equally deserving of the honor. All he did was set a record seven shutouts in the 2003 post-season, three of them in the Stanley Cup finals against the Ducks, game 7 included. Ciguerre and Brodeur should have been named co-Conn Smythe Trophy winners for the 2003 NHL playoffs.
Story of the Week
Charles Dillon Stengel of Kansas City owned oil wells in Texas, was V-P of a bank in California, and controlled real estate that made him a millionaire. But for all his status, he was best known as a baseball man with a wrinkled, expressive face and a guttural voice.
He was a player, coach or manager on 17 pro teams, was traded four times as a major league outfielder, was dropped or relieved three times as a major league manager, and was even paid twice for not managing.
After years of playing, coaching and managing, Stengel finally, in 1949 at the age of 59, graduated to the New York Yankees as their manager. His selection evoked surprise, but the "interim" manager stayed 12 years. Casey, a take-off on K.C. for his hometown, proceeded to win 10 pennants and seven World Series during that tenure.
In later years, Stengel acknowledged his first year, 1949, as the Yankees manager was his greatest managerial accomplishment. The Yankees suffered 72 injuries that year. Joe DiMaggio missed half the season. But Stengel kept juggling lineups, and the "rookie" manager took the Yankees to the American League pennant and World Series wins.
Five days after the Yankees lost to Pittsburgh in the 1960 World Series, Casey, now 70, was fired. In an acrimonious press conference, owner Dan Topping announced that Stengel had "retired", but Casey was quick to set the record straight with the media.
After a year off in the California sunshine, he was hired again, this time by the lowly Mets. George Weiss, former G.M. of the Yankees, was now organizing the Mets, the successors to the Dodgers and Giants who were now on the West Coast. Weiss wanted Casey as his field boss.
Now 72, Casey found that winning without Berra, Ford, Mantle and Maris wasn’t all that easy. During the next four years, his new career crystallized all his talents for teaching, acting, and enchanting the public. The Mets needed those talents of his, to be sure, since they lost 452 games during those four years, and finished dead last each time. Stengel’s last year in a baseball suit was 1965.
In 1966, Casey Stengel limped into baseball’s Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York, alongside Ted Williams. He was inducted into the shrine. He told the crowd in valedictorian Stengelese, "I want to thank my parents for letting me play baseball, and I’m thankful I had ugly baseball knuckles that prevented me from becoming a dentist."
The colorful Casey Stengel died at the age of 85 in 1975.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who is the NBA’s all-time coaching leader in losses? He’s the same man who is the NBA’s all-time coaching leader in wins. Lenny Wilkens.
Trivia Question of the Week
What father and two sons played on the same pro sports team at the same time? What team? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.