An incident that was not reported in the newspapers or shown by the television cameras occurred along about this time at Yankee Stadium. A man seized the microphone from the public-address announcer and screamed into it: "Bring back Casey Stengel!"
A little later this incident was destined to take on fearful significance. At the end of July the injury-, accident-, influenza-prone Yanks were staggering badly. In a week, they made 12 errors and presented opposing teams with 10 unearned runs.
There were some ominous, thinly veiled attacks on George Weiss himself. Where was the Yankee farm system, where were the replacements, what had happened to Mickey Mantle? He could hit for Stengel—most of the time, anyway.
Something had to give. In early August, a despairing Ralph Houk called a press conference and announced his resignation. Acting swiftly to fill the void, George Weiss called a second conference and announced that Houk would be succeeded by Bill McCorry, the Yanks' traveling secretary, as acting manager. Before the astounded sportswriters could get out a question, Weiss paid a glowing tribute to McCorry, who, he said, had once been a minor league manager (at Albany, N.Y.) and, moreover, had pitched for the old St. Louis Browns in 1909. Weiss said he had been deeply impressed by a fighting speech McCorry had made on the Phil Rizzuto postgame broadcast a few days previously. Viewers then remembered that McCorry had told Rizzuto that the Yanks needed some of the oldtime fighting spirit. "They ought to be scrapping with the umpires and getting thrown out of ball games," McCorry declared. "If they did that, I'm convinced we'd cop the old bunting [i.e., win the pennant) even at this late date."
McCorry's major and minor league experience was well known to the Yankee players. Someone had looked up his pitching record with the old Browns (he had won no games and lost two during the 1909 season), and he was affectionately known as "Old Oh-and-two."
Although he was clearly a stopgap manager, McCorry swung into action. His first act was to call a clubhouse meeting, which he threw open to the press. In a fighting speech, which was essentially the same as he delivered on the Rizzuto telecast, McCorry cried that he wanted "to see more scrap out there, more fighting with the umps even if it means getting thrown out of the ball game."
Things got no better. One day the fans began the chant that was to become a fixture of Yankee home games from then on. "We want Stengel," the chant ran. "Bring back Casey!" Banners calling for Stengel's return were so thick in the bleachers and grandstand that it was impossible for the guards to eject all of the guilty parties from the ball park.
Sensing the trend of public opinion, the sportswriters began to write pieces speculating about how Casey Stengel would have handled the team. "It is inconceivable," one of them wrote, "that Stengel would have permitted the club to become so disorganized. Under Stengel, Ford and Turley alone would have kept the club up there, and Casey's masterful platooning would certainly have minimized the effects of the injuries. Make no mistake about it, Stengel, and Stengel alone, was the genius responsible for the fabulous success of the Yankees."
As the Yankees themselves slumped on, the fans began to gather in little groups on Fifth Avenue outside the Yankees' downtown office. Speakers mounted stepladders to harangue the assemblies, recalling the old America First rallies of pre- Pearl Harbor days. Inevitably, the meetings ended with the ominous chant, "Bring back Casey Stengel! We want Casey!" Soon the war cry appeared on placards and small parades took form.