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Who cares that a bald-headed man in his 60s decided to go see a baseball game last week? Or that another bald-headed man did the same thing two days later? Who cares? Well, as Li'l Abner might say, "The Amurrican peeple, thass who." And in the full spirit of the occasion the President of the United States attended the opening game of the World Series at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and had a high, natural good time as the curtain went up on the great finale of the baseball drama—a drama that soon showed signs of turning into the All-America cliff hanger of 1956. The President himself was part of the drama's spectacle—as was his Democratic opponent, Adlai Stevenson, at the second game—and when the presidential party drove off the field he was caught in a tableau (opposite) which recorded for history a vast amount of the whole day.
There on the scoreboard behind him was the record of Sal Maglie's 6-3 victory over the Yankees. There—still recorded as "at bat"—was the memorable No. 7 of Mickey Mantle, who had just grounded into a double play to end the game (though those two Yankee runs in the first inning were a tribute to a booming Mantle homer). And there, too, was the Yankee No. 17—for Enos Slaughter, LF, another major character in the drama whose big role was still ahead.
...ENTER THE OLD TROUPER: CASEY STENGEL
Casey Stengel prowled back and forth along the wooden floor of the dugout, giving signals to his coaches and orders to his players and, occasionally, hell to the umpires. More than anyone else in sight, he was the center of attraction. This was an extraordinary thing, because young men—even Slaughter at 40 and Maglie at 39 are boys next to the 65-year-old Casey—with firm muscles and springs in their legs were doing heroic things on the field.
But the television cameras recognized Stengel for what he was, a great performer on the stage of baseball, and, while they caught in action the feats of Mantle and Snider, Maglie and Ford, they shot their long lenses into the dugout to watch Casey clutch his head in agony after a Brooklyn homer, or close down onto the infield as he crabbed his way out to the mound to remove an erring pitcher.
Casey is an emotional man: he is not of the new phlegmatic school that believes in the poker face and the monosyllabic response. Casey reacts to everything. Perhaps this is why he appeals so strongly to the average fan: during the Series, Stengel, too, writhed and grimaced, yelled with glee or slumped unhappily in his seat, as the extraordinary series of dugout portraits by Photographer John G. Zimmerman reveals so graphically (right).
Casey's 10th Series (three as a player—he had a .393 average for World Series competition—and seven as manager of the Yankees) started dismally. In Brooklyn his "perfessional," the strong-shouldered Whitey Ford, was hit freely, and the Dodgers' old Sal Maglie stopped Casey's heroes dead after a first-inning line-drive home run by Mickey Mantle had put the Yankees ahead. Maglie is often accused of throwing an illegal spitball, and after that first game Casey delivered a center-stage soliloquy. "I don't know if he throws a spitball," he said, "but he sure spits on the ball. No, I don't want to say he spits on the ball, but he spits. Then he gives it this—" wiping his hands on his shirt—"and he touches the resin bag and he throws. But I don't want to say that I don't think he's a hell of a pitcher. He pitched good. He beat us. He pitched a good game."
Casey was a gracious loser then, giving his worthy adversary his due. But the next day, after his team had fallen from a 6-0 lead to a humiliating 13-8 defeat, he was just a little short-tempered. Why, a baseball writer asked, had he taken Starting Pitcher Don Larsen out with a 6-1 lead in the second inning. Why? It was obvious, at least to Stengel. "Wild!" he said in a loud, ringing voice. "He was wild. W-I-L-D."
And he waved his arms and stomped away, showing little physical fatigue despite the chore of removing five more pitchers from the mound after Larsen. It all seemed sad in a way. Poor old Casey.
Next day Stengel was back in the luxurious confines of Yankee Stadium, and he turned to the luxury of using his professional again. This time Ford beat the Dodgers, and the next day, behind Tom Sturdivant, Stengel's Yankees beat the Dodgers again.