Managing The Yankees
When old friend and admirer George Weiss, who had taken over general management of the New York Yankees, called on Stengel to manage the team in 1949, he accepted, saying at a press conference, "This is a big job, fellows, and I barely have had time to study it. In fact, I scarcely know where I am at." Conservative Yankee business staffers winced when the press ran a photo of Stengel in a Yankee uniform holding a baseball and gazing at it as though it were a crystal ball. Stengel, taking on the biggest challenge of his life at age 59, led the Yankees to a World Series championship his first season as manager and followed that with four more consecutive world championships. Under Stengel, the Yankees had seven wins in ten World Series over a twelve-year period.
Stengel's instructional school, first held in 1951, soon became a Yankee institution that was copied by the other major league teams. The young Mickey Mantle was Stengel's protégé. Stengel is said to have built his team around the powerhouse hitter and lightning-fast runner, along with Berra and Ford. With such superstars as DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto also on the team, Stengel developed the art of platooning to its highest form. In 1953 the Yankees won eighteen straight games, just one short of the American League record.
The Yankees renewed Stengel's contract in 1954, and he became a baseball legend when his team won pennants for the next four years and again took the World Series title in 1956 and 1958. Continually in the newspapers and on television, Stengel became as well known as his players, as the world chuckled and scratched its head over his "Stengelese." On July 9, 1958, Stengel, Mantle, and a few others were called to testify before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly in Washington, D.C. The Senate was considering a popular bill that would exempt professional baseball and other sports from certain antitrust restrictions and wanted a hearing on the bill before taking a vote. Asked to briefly give his background and his views on the legislation, Stengel delivered a forty-five-minute monologue that repeatedly filled the room with laughter. When Stengel was finished, Mantle was asked for his opinion on the bill. He said, "My views are about the same as Casey's."
In 1960, Stengel suffered chest pains and spent some time in the hospital but soon returned to the Yankees. However, the team had finished third in 1959 and lost the World Series to Pittsburgh in 1960. The Yankees let Stengel go, with a $160,000 profit-sharing payoff. Stengel told a crowd of reporters, "Write anything you want. Quit, fired, whatever you please." He also quipped, "I'll never make the mistake of being seventy again."