Besides ranking among the most successful managers, Tony La Russa and Casey Stengel have something else in common: Each had to leave his team during a season to receive treatment for a medical condition described as a virus.
At 66, La Russa, the Cardinals manager, sat out a six-game road trip to Chicago and Cincinnati in May 2011 to receive testing and treatment for shingles, a viral infection of the nerve roots.
At 69, Stengel, the Yankees manager who led New York to 10 American League pennants and 7 World Series titles, missed 12 games during the 1960 season when he entered a hospital for treatment of a virus condition that settled in his kidneys.
Stengel was known as “The Old Professor” when he became ill on May 28, 1960.
When he was released from a New York hospital June 5, The New York Times reported the next day:
Casey Stengel, victorious in his battle with a low-grade virus, yesterday left Lenox Hill Hospital, where he had been confined since last Tuesday … Stengel, who first became ill on May 28, has been advised to rest for at least 24 more hours before resuming his job with the Bombers.
Yankees coach Ralph Houk was acting manager in Stengel’s absence. The Yankees were 6-6 in the games Houk managed, including two doubleheaders.
Stengel returned to the Yankees on June 7. Dick Young of the New York Daily News described the scene at Yankee Stadium for The Sporting News:
He put on the white flannel uniform, and it felt good. For more than a week, he had worn nothing but silk pajamas or those baggy nightgowns they give you at the hospital, the ones that look shapeless enough to be Dior creations.
Stengel met with reporters in the dugout before the Yankees faced the White Sox. Here is part of Dick Young’s account:
“You look good,” said a newspaperman, telling a little white lie.
“Well, I’ll tell you something,” said Casey. “They examined all my organs.
“Some of them are quite remarkable, and others are not so good. A lot of museums are bidding for them.”
Everybody laughed, including Stengel.
The Yankees, 22-21 when Stengel returned, beat the White Sox, 5-2, that night, sparking a seven-game winning streak. New York went on to win the American League pennant, finishing 97-57.