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You may remember that when Casey was managing the Boston Braves some years back he was struck by a taxicab and suffered a broken leg. A Boston sportswriter who apparently felt that Manager Stengel was the prime reason why the Braves were a second-division club promptly suggested that the cab driver be given a medal.
Boston has become considerably more civilized since those bluff and hearty days. After all, they have a symphony there, and several museums, and bridges connect the city with Cambridge, where Harvard is. But let the Stengel personality be exposed in full flower before the people of Boston and off comes the thin veneer of gentility and a bloodthirsty howl of primitive vengeance is heard in the land.
Such was the case last Saturday when the somewhat improper Bostonians who jam into Fenway Park whenever the Boston Red Sox play the New York Yankees had an uproariously cheerful time. The Red Sox finally, for the first time this season, managed to beat the unloved New Yorkers. They came from behind to win in a wild, scrambling, bang-away game. They displayed some fine pitching (young Dave Sisler, George's son, threw three good, courageous innings of relief to gain his first major league victory; his famous father had broken into the majors 41 years earlier pitching three good, courageous innings of relief), and there was a long, classic home run by Mickey Vernon that put the Red Sox ahead to stay.
WAS IT A HOMER?
All this was grand enough, but even grander in retrospect was the thwarting of a Yankee rally in the eighth inning. The Red Sox had gone ahead, 5-3. The Yankees had Jerry Coleman on second, with two out and Mickey Mantle up. Mantle hit a long, high fly to deep center field. Jimmy Piersall, the Boston center fielder, went back to the base of the 17-foot-high center field wall but the ball, dropping, hit well above his head and bounced in a high arc 40 feet back into center field, much as a rubber ball will bounce when it hits the corner of a step. Left Fielder Gene Stephens caught the ball and threw it into the infield, holding Mantle on third with a triple. Coleman had scored, making the score 5-4.
Out onto the field raged Casey Stengel, trotting bowlegged across the diamond, hat clutched in hand, yelling at Umpire Ed Rommel, who had called the play, that the ball had gone into the seats before bouncing out and that therefore it was not a triple but a home run. If this were so, the score would be tied at 5-5.
But Umpire Rommel said, No, Casey, it was not in the seats, it bounced off the top of the wall, which means that it was in play and that Mantle was entitled to no more than the three bases he reached before the ball came back into the infield.
Stengel was furious. His body shook, his arms waved, his mouth jawed. Surprisingly tiny in the company of the tall ballplayers and umpires knotted behind second base, he bounced around like a bantam rooster, shouting and waving his arms. Umpire Rommel jawed back at him. Casey waggled his finger furiously in the umpire's face. The umpire waggled back.
Boston was beside itself with joy. Casey had no chance to win (who ever wins an argument with an umpire?) and they would have been content to watch the goings-on all afternoon, knowing that Casey could not win. They howled and catcalled and booed, thoroughly pleased by it all.