Kid Elberfeld's Influence - Casey Stengel

Source: Reader's Digest - 1997

Unforgettable Casey Stengel:

Billy Martin with Mark Kram

If any manager can ever be called a genius, Casey Stengel is that man. Unless it was convenient, his memory was faultless-as clear and specific as the ring of a bell on a still day. It was the gift, the switch that he pulled to maneuver his players on and off the field, and it made him a master in the subtle game of using a certain batter against a certain pitcher, of putting a strong arm in the right position. This is called "platooning," and the old man was the father of it; baseball would never be the same again.
The Man From K.C. Casey Stengel was born in Kansas City, Mo., in 1890. From the day his father signed his consent for the boy to play pro-fessional ball, young Stengel would be known as the man from K.C., hence the name "'Casey." At 19, he was playing for Maysville, Ky., where he used to practice slides in the outfield between innings.
"Keep tryin', son," said one of the veterans of the club, "and you'll soon be up there." "In the majors, you mean?" asked Stengel. "No, up there!" said the veteran, pointing to a mental hospital beyond centerfield.
Though Casey had wanted to be a dentist (he spent three years at Western Dental College in Kansas City), in the summer of 1912, while he was playing for the Montgomery team in the Southern Association, his head turned completely toward the big leagues. It all happened one day when major-league shortstop Kid Elberfeld stopped by to watch Casey play.
The Kid's eyes pinned on Casey's valise. "That's a thousand-miler if the weather stays good," said the Kid. "But if it rains, you'll find your-self holding nothing but the handles. Buy yourself a good one. You'll need it if you're going to be a big-leaguer. And don't worry, you will be. You can forget about pulling teeth, you're made for this game."
That fall, new bag and all, Casey was called up to the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers. He would remember Kid Elberfeld's encouragement and help him later, for he was never to forget a friend. He used to send money quietly to old players, down on their luck. "Is it true," I once asked him, "that you just sent $1000 to some old ballplayer in Tacoma?"
"Mind your own business, Martin" he shot back with a faint smile. on his face. "You might be sittin' in a rockin' chair someday on the porch of some nursing home. Come to think of it, you belong in one now.