July 30: Casey Stengel

casey_stengelI don’t know what it is about baseball, but that sport has a proud, strange history of attracting oddballs and eccentrics. There’s a pretty solid through line of wacky ballplayer traits going from Jackie Price’s ability to take batting practice while hanging upside down, to Yogi Berra’s Zen-like Yogiisms to current Dodgers pitcher Brian Wilson’s beard and tendency to play the organ on his teammates’ heads. Well, today we honor one of the great baseball goofs, Casey Stengel, who was born on this day in 1890.

During his over fifty year baseball career, Stengel was a favorite of both fans and the press for his quick wit and unique turns of phrase. He famously once won over a hostile Brooklyn crowd by stepping up to home plate, tipping his cap to the grandstands and revealing a sparrow that he had hidden beneath the cap. The sparrow flew off and the crowd cheered at Stengel’s caper.

Stengel had a thirteen year career as a player, but he’s best known for serving as manager to both the New York Yankees and New York Mets. As the manager of the Yankees, Stengel led the team to seven World Series titles, including five consecutive championships from 1949 to 1953. His time with the Mets was another story entirely.

In 1962, when the Mets played their first season, Stengel was coaxed out of retirement to coach the newly formed team. Upon being hired, Stengel, who was 72 at the time, joked about his age by saying “”It’s a great honor to be joining the Knickerbockers,” referencing a New York baseball team that disbanded during the Civil War era. In their inaugural season, Stengel’s winning personality was about the only “winning” thing the Mets had. The team was mostly made up of past-their-prime veteran players and untested rookies who couldn’t win a game to save their life. In fact, the 1962 Mets set the record for the most losses by a team in Major League Baseball’s modern era.  Although Stengel wasn’t able to help the team win, he did endear the Mets to baseball fans by dubbing them the Amazing Mets, a team that Stengel claimed amazed him by finding “new ways to lose I never knew existed before.”

There are two cocktails called the Metropolitan. One’s a knock-off of the Cosmopolitan and the other is a classic brandy cocktail that’s kind of like a sweeter Manhattan. Today we’re going to make the latter.

Metropolitan

  • 1 1/2 ounces Brandy
  • 1 ounces Sweet Vermouth
  • 1/2 teaspoon simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Pour the ingredients in to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Tomorrow: Why is the rum always gone?

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