With the World Series recently completed, maybe a baseball story is in order. No, it isn’t about the Yankees or Phillies. It is about the start of an expansion team almost half a century ago. Specifically, it is about that team’s manager.
The name Casey Stengel will be associated forever with the glory days of the New York Yankees. He managed those fabulous teams that fielded Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle. They won pennant after pennant, World Series after World Series. As those players aged and retired, though, the team’s fortunes went south. And Stengel had to find another job — even before the days of quick-to- fire-managers of the George Steinbrenner style.
It just so happened that a new Major League Baseball team had been formed in New York, and the fledgling Mets offered Stengel the manager’s job. He accepted. Not known for getting the details exactly right, this is what he said at his media introduction as the Mets’ first skipper: “It’s a great honor for me to be joining the Knickerbockers.” (Oops! The Knicks play professional basketball.)
Explaining why his first pick in the expansion draft was a catcher, Stengel gave one of his classic replies. “You gotta start with a catcher, ’cause if you don’t,” he said, “you’ll have all passed balls.” It’s hard to argue with that logic!
In the Mets’ first year of play, Casey’s Castoffs lost 120 games. He must have known what was coming. At the team’s first spring training in 1962, he took his players for a stroll around the diamond. “They are the bases,” he told them.
Although not competitive that year, the Mets gradually got better.
Eight years later, they made it to the World Series.
So maybe you need to get back to the fundamentals.
Stengel was right. A baseball team needs to know where the bases are. And it does need a catcher to keep the ball from flying back to the wall with every pitch. These are among the basics to the game of baseball.