You’ve never heard of Casey Stengel?? Ah– you must be a young person: someone under the age of 50!
Casey was one of major league baseball’s true eccentrics. He died back in 1975, but he still inspires, and his legend lives on. I was reminded of this when I read a wonderful review of Marty Appel’s new biography: Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character. The review was written by Leigh Montville. It appeared in The Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition. The review was titled: The Lunatic Wore Pinstripes.
I’ve heard many Stengel anecdotes over the years– including the one about him doffing his cap at the plate one day and having a bird fly out (for the record: a sparrow). Mr. Montville began his review with one that was new to me. It made me roar with laughter.
His first professional game was with the Kankakee Kays, a minor league team in
the Northern Association. Their ballpark was across the street from the 119-acre Kankakee State Hospital, formerly known as the Illinois Eastern Hospital for the Insane. The residents would watch the games from their windows, and the spectators could watch the residents watch. Sensibilities being a bit different 107 years ago, the team on the field was soon known in the newspapers and through word of mouth as the Lunatics.