- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Castro was sent to Cincinnati, where he became the Reds' ineffectual, left-leaning player representative. To distance themselves from their radical middle reliever, the Reds began calling themselves the Redlegs during these, the McCarthyite 1950s. Castro felt betrayed by the franchise.
In flagrant violation of the Redlegs' dress code, he began wearing olive-drab fatigues when traveling. Teammates mockingly called him El Jefe, or the Boss. Firing up one of the White Owl cigars that he favored, Castro set his beard ablaze while savoring a rare victory in the Crosley Field clubhouse in 1954. Four decades after his whiskers cooled, Castro still hasn't extinguished the aftereffects of El Comandante's Inferno, as the incident will forever be known in Cincinnati. The debacle led to the Reds' policy of banning facial hair, a rule that remains in effect to this day.
But it was Castro's nonchalance after losses that most galled his teammates and led to his release in 1960. After each bad outing, Castro would coolly tell reporters assembled at his locker, "History will absolve me." It did not.
Meanwhile, Fulgencio Batista remained in power in the vacation paradise of Cuba until his death in 1973. Professional baseball, of course, flourishes on the island. Spring training's Sugar League has attracted thousands of fans from the U.S. each season, and baseball fever in Cuba has reached epidemic proportions in this expansion season of '93, as the National League's new Havana Sugar Kings have drawn sellout crowds since Opening Day. (What's more, under manager Mike Cuellar, the former Baltimore Oriole—who in fact pitched for Batista's army team in 1955—the Sugar Kings have played well enough to outdistance the Mets and stand clear of the cellar at the All-Star break.)
As for Castro, he has not attended a ball game anywhere since 1986. That summer, in yet another curious display of personal politics, he was arrested outside the ballpark in Houston for allegedly trying to paint a C in front of the word ASTRODOME.
Charles Dillon Stengel was newly released from high school in 1910. That spring he signed with the minor league Kansas City Blues, but in the offseason he enrolled in dental school. For the next two winters Stengel attended Western Dental College in Kansas City. "If Casey had not made it as a ballplayer," writes Robert Creamer in Stengel: His Life and Times, "he almost certainly would have been a dentist." Hmmm. What might have been had Stengel not played and managed for 39 years in the major leagues but become a dentist instead?
While his dental smocks bore the lyrical monogram C.D.S., D.D.S., Dr. Stengel became known more familiarly as the Of Periodontist. The frustrated outfielder and armchair manager had no plaque in Cooperstown, but he had no plaque, either.
As a student dentist, Stengel enjoyed operating on the jaws of cadavers, occasionally wedging cigars between their teeth. Robert Creamer quotes him as saying, "This was a serious business, naturally, but once in a while fellas would fool around with those bodies when nobody was looking, and the first thing you knew you'd find an extra thumb in your pocket."
But in his later years Stengel seemed to lose his sense of humor. A lefthanded dentist in a world of righthanded dental implements, he felt ever the outsider among his colleagues in the American Dental Association. This explains why his was the one dissenting vote whenever four out of five dentists recommended anything.
Still, he achieved a certain status among his peers for his clever turns of phrase; Stengel invariably concluded his lectures at dental conferences with the line "You could look it up," though he is much better remembered for his famous "You can rinse now."