Casey Stengel famously asked “Can’t anybody here play this game” of the hapless 1962 Mets, but he may have asked the same question of the 1939 Boston Braves. And the 1940 Braves…and the 1941 Braves...
With Stengel as manager, the team finished in seventh place all three years, with a 190-267 record.
Stengel was best known as the wisecracking manager of the New York Mets in the 1960s and as the canny leader of the New York Yankees, a powerhouse during the 1950s. But he played 14 seasons in the National League, hitting a solid .284 and playing excellent defense. When his major league playing career ended, he turned to managing. He also invested some of his earnings in Texas oil fields, which he parlayed into a part ownership of the Boston Braves in 1938. That first year, he managed the team that year to a fifth place finish with a 77-75 record – the only winning record he’d have as a Braves manager.
It was downhill from there, one losing season after another. Just before the 1943 season, a taxicab hit Stengel as he crossed a street in Boston. The accident fractured his left leg. During his six weeks in the hospital he developed a staph infection and forever after walked with a limp. A sportswriter said the cabdriver was the person who had done the most for Boston baseball.
Finally on Jan. 27, 1944, Stengel resigned. He described what happened in his inimitable Stengelese:
I became a major league manager in several cities and was discharged. We call it discharged because there is no question I had to leave.
Stengel went on to manage the Yankees, then the Mets. Pitching great Warren Spahn, who played for Stengel in 1942 and – at 44 – for the 1965 Mets, had his own take on Stengel:
I'm probably the only guy who worked for Stengel before and after he was a genius.
Stengel finally retired in 1965. He had broken his hip after falling off a bar stool.