He had spent the previous five full seasons with the Brooklyn Robins, a notorious annual holdout and colorful character but a solid centerfielder. Finally exhausted by the annual contract hassles and in need of an arm, Brooklyn owner Charlie Ebbets traded Casey Stengel and George Cutshaw to Pittsburgh for Burleigh Grimes and two others before the start of the 1918 season.
Of course, he’d become far more famous much later in life, managing in New York but our Photo of the Day from RMY Auctions is a rare, original image taken during his tenure as a member of the Pirates.
Stengel would play on parts of two seasons with the Pirates but left a lasting impression on fans two months before this photo was taken. His poor play one May afternoon led to Stengel hearing a chorus of boos and catcalls. He saw a teammate holding a sparrow in the bullpen, asked for it and tucked it gently into his cap. When he came to bat a few moments later, the boos rained down again. Stengel doffed his cap, the bird flew out and the taunts turned to cheers. It’s said even the umpire laughed.
Pirates owner Barney Dreyfus wasn’t enamored with Stengel, who had also held out before the 1918 season despite poor numbers, and traded him to Philadelphia later that summer.
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