May 28, 1984 12:00 PM

by Robert W. Creamer

For 55 years baseball fans tried to translate a unique language called Stengelese. It was to English what the spitball is to a standard pitch—close but something else, and something more. When Casey Stengel managed Oakland just after WWII, for example, he told reporters, “I like the idea of bridges. Everywhere I go they throw in a bridge as part of the service. Every manager wants to jump off a bridge sooner or later, and it’s very nice for an old man to know he doesn’t have to walk 50 miles to find one.” This delightful biography not only gives readers a rich selection of such eccentric lexicological genius, but it also makes a strong case for ranking Stengel among the most fascinating of American personalities. As a player he had an uneven career, but learned early the art of playing the buffoon for both fans and reporters. Creamer, a senior writer for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, has a style that perfectly matches his subject: warm, smart and constantly entertaining. (Simon and Schuster, $16.95)

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