Pinch One-Liner

Here is just a smattering of stats on Casey Stengel: born 1890, died 1975; former major-league baseball player; Hall of Fame manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves, New York Yankees and New York Mets; and the only manager to win five consecutive World Series (Yankees 1949-1953).

But what most baseball fans remember about Charles Dillon Stengel is his colorful, humorous use of language, referred to as Stengelese. For instance: "The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided" or "You look there into the Cincinnati dugout and what do you see? All mahogany. Then you look at our bench and all you see is driftwood."

The one-man show A One-Sided Conversation with Casey Stengel takes place as the manager schmoozes some city bigwigs during spring training of his first season as manager of the New York Yankees in 1949. Following each performance, Houston actor Kurt Bauer will stay in character to field questions from the audience.

Why Casey Stengel? Bauer claims mere serendipity: Author and friend Paul Higbee was researching a project on Babe Ruth but kept stumbling across material on Casey. From there, it just steamrolled.

"We were both surprised that no one had done this before," Bauer says. "Casey just had that ability to inform and entertain for hours on end."

Bauer performed the premiere last summer in Higbee's home of Spearfish, North Dakota. Town and Country playwright in residence Diana Howie liked the script enough to push to have it performed here. "We're supportive of local talent, and we thought this play would be great fun to see," she says. What's more important, Bauer has a real passion about Stengel and felt fans would want to meet the man with Yogi Berra's gift for gab.

As for how the baseball legend might have felt to be portrayed on stage, it can best be summed up by another bit of Stengelese: "There comes a time in every man's life, and I've had plenty of them."

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John W. Royal