In one of the most intriguing incidents in the long rivalry between the Cardinals and Dodgers, two of baseball’s most colorful characters, Leo Durocher and Casey Stengel, escalated a war of words into a post-game fight.
The animosity between the two combatants was so strong that Stengel brought a bat to the showdown.
Their tangle under the stands at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on May 12, 1936, was witnessed solely by Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch.
Thus, the three principal figures in the drama all were future inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.
Frisch was elected to the shrine because of his excellence as a second baseman for the Giants and Cardinals. Durocher and Stengel were inducted for their skills as managers. Both achieved their most prominent successes as managers of New York teams _ Durocher with the Dodgers and Giants; Stengel with the Yankees. In their lone World Series matchup, Stengel’s Yankees won four of six games against Durocher’s Giants in 1951.
Eighty years ago, at the time of their tussle, Durocher was the Cardinals’ shortstop and Stengel was the Dodgers’ manager.
Before a gathering of 7,500 on a Tuesday afternoon, the Cardinals started their ace, Dizzy Dean. He was opposed by a left-hander, Ed Brandt, whom the Dodgers had acquired five months earlier from the Braves.
The Dodgers pummeled Dean with 13 hits in eight innings. Brandt limited the Cardinals to four hits in eight innings. Max Butcher, a rookie, pitched a scoreless ninth, earning his first major-league save in a 5-2 Dodgers victory. Boxscore
Throughout the game, Durocher, the Cardinals’ captain, and Stengel had hollered at one another across the field.
At some point during the bickering, Stengel told Durocher he’d see him after the game, The Sporting News reported.
Durocher replied, “You’d better have a bat with you.”
Durocher later claimed he forgot about that remark.
After the game, Durocher and Frisch were in a runway that led from the dugout to the clubhouse under the stands when Stengel, holding a bat, confronted his nemesis.
In accounts to The Sporting News and Associated Press, Durocher and Stengel told different versions of what happened next.
Durocher said Stengel tried to hit him with the bat.
Stengel said he hit Durocher with his fist. “It was a right, just a plain right,” Stengel said.
Frisch broke up the scuffle “with little damage having been done,” according to the Associated Press.
The Sporting News dubbed the incident, “Casey and His Bat.”
Ford Frick, president of the National League, said he didn’t issue any fines because the fight occurred out of sight from the public, not on the field.
Hate to lose
After the season, the Dodgers fired Stengel. A year later, in October 1937, the Cardinals traded Durocher to the Dodgers. He became the Dodgers’ manager in 1939.
Stengel eventually landed with the Yankees and won seven World Series titles and 10 American League pennants from 1949-60. Durocher won NL pennants with the Dodgers in 1941 and with the Giants in 1951 and 1954. His 1954 Giants brought him his lone World Series title as a manager.
In his book “Nice Guys Finish Last,” Durocher wrote, “I would make the loser’s trip to the opposing dressing room to congratulate the other manager because that was the proper thing to do. But … I didn’t like it. You think I liked it when I had to go see Mr. Stengel and say, ‘Congratulations, Casey, you played great?’ I’d have liked to stick a knife in his chest and twist it inside him.”
Previously: How Red Schoendienst became Cardinals manager