Monday, July 25, 2016

Genius, Casey Stengel and advertising.

I read a quotation the other day by a ball-player named Warren Spahn. Spahn was probably the greatest left-handed pitcher ever to play the game. Whether you agree with that statement or not, Spahn won more games than any lefty, 363, and 20 or more games—the hallmark of pitching brilliance, 13 times.

One anomaly of Spahn’s career is that he played for manager Casey Stengel twice. First Spahn played for Stengel when he was just 21 and at the start of his career in 1942. And Spahn played for Stengel in 1965 when he was 44 and at the end of his career.

Spahn’s quotation: “I'm probably the only guy who played for Stengel before and after he was a genius.”

That got me thinking about Stengel. And genius. And sic transit gloria mundi. And all that.

Stengel, who had a relatively undistinguished 13-year career as a ballplayer, began his managerial career at the age of 43, leading the woeful Brooklyn Dodgers. From 1934-1943 he led teams through eight losing seasons in nine years, finishing above .500 just once, in 1938 when his Boston Bees won two more games than they lost and finished fifth in an eight-team league—Stengel’s highest standing.

Then, Stengel headed to the Pacific Coast League where he eventually led the Oakland Oaks to a PCL Championship. 

George Weiss, the General Manager of the Yankees and a friend of Stengel's hired Stengel to lead the Yanks. Stengel managed the Bombers for 12 years, from 1949 to 1960. During that time, his boys won 10 pennants and seven World Series. 

Stengel was a genius.

Then, in 1962, Stengel went to the Mets.

His team lost more games in a single season than any team ever, 120. In his four years as the Mets' manager, his club finished in last place each year, scarcely showing any improvement at all.

Stengel didn't start dumb, get smart, then lose it.

Circumstances played a large role in the performance of his teams. I would imagine he managed with the same acumen for the 103-51 Yankees as he did for the 40-120 Mets.

The same shit happens in our business.

We win awards. We go on a streak of good work. We get promoted and lauded and etc. Then the opposite occurs. We win the world-wide Hot Pockets account. And our career goes in the toilet.

Life, in other words, is ups and downs.

Hang in there.

Stick to your knitting. That is do what you know you can do.

And maybe, like Stengel, you'll still be working at the age of 74.

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