COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel followed a simple rule whenever his New York Yankees took on the rival Boston Red Sox.
Don’t give Ted Williams anything to hit.
“I wouldn’t allow our Yankee pitchers to throw the ball over the plate,” Stengel said.
On July 25, 1966, Stengel could breathe easy because this time he was on Williams’ side. This week 46 years ago, the former Yankees manager and Red Sox outfielder were enshrined at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Stengel, whose career in professional baseball spanned 54 years, led the Yankees to 10 pennants and seven World Series titles in a 12-year stretch from 1949-1960. The seven championships tied Stengel with Joe McCarthy for the most of all time. Stengel’s Yankees rattled off five World Series championships in a row from 1949-53, which is also the most consecutive titles ever.
“We all know what his record was, so I don’t have to repeat that,” said Ralph Houk, who succeeded Stengel as manager of the Yankees. “But how long was he in baseball? Think of that and all he ever did was enhance it.”
To get to those championships, Stengel’s teams often had to get through Williams and the Red Sox. Williams, however, never made it easy for the Yankees.
Williams’ .406 batting average in 1941 represents the last time a Major League player eclipsed the .400 mark. Despite missing nearly five full seasons from military service and injuries, Williams still racked up two Triple Crowns, two MVPs, six American League batting championships, 521 home runs, and a lifetime average of .344.
Even one of Stengel’s biggest cogs in those championship runs recognized Williams’ prowess at the dish.
"He (Ted Williams) was the best pure hitter I ever saw,” said Hall of Fame outfielder Joe DiMaggio. “He was feared."
Williams’ former owner agreed with those sentiments.
“Although he had the basic talents, it was his dedication to baseball, constant study of pitchers and practice which made him I believe, the greatest hitter of all time,” said former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey.
And while Yawkey and others crowned Williams as the greatest hitter of all time, Stengel had his opinions on who was the greatest manager of all time.
“I was the best manager I saw and I tell people that to shut them up quickly and also because I believe it,” Stengel said.
Stengel did not have to wait long after his managing days to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame. The Veterans Committee voted him in just seven months after he managed his final game.
Williams was also voted into the Hall of Fame in atypical fashion. Despite his sometimes-stormy relationship with the media, Williams received 282 votes by the writers, which was the most in Hall of Fame history.
“This is a wonderful day for me,” Williams said when he received the news. “I can’t think of anything a ballplayer would want more.”
Connor O’Gara is the 2012 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development