Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?!

You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?!

Jonah Winter
Illustrator:  Barry Blitt 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Random House, 2016   ISBN: 978-0375870132

Many people in America are familiar with the poem called Casey at the Bat. The poem tells the story of a valiant baseball player whose game does not quite turn out the way he had hoped. Casey Stengel was not the Casey mentioned in the poem. In fact, Casey Stengel was nothing like the hero in the poem. When he started out playing the game he loved so much, he was a “left-handed, bowlegged, wisecracking character” who traveled from town to town and dreamed of one day playing in the majors.

His dream came true. Sort of. He made it to the majors but he was not what you would exactly call a success. The problem wasn’t that he was a bad player. No, not at all. The problem was that he was “a goofball” who liked to goof around when he was playing, which meant that no one took him seriously. How can you believe in a man when he acts up and pranks people?

After fourteen years in the majors, Casey lost his job and so he became the manager of a minor league team called the Toledo Mud Hens. Unfortunately, the Mud Hens did not do well. Neither did any of the other teams that Casey managed. After sixteen frustrating years not getting much of anywhere, Casey began to feel tired. Maybe it was time to throw in the towel.

Then two amazing things happened, things that turned Casey’s life around. They were things that helped the world see that Casey Stengel might be a goofball, but he also knew a lot about baseball, and given the chance he was capable of doing great things for the game.

Everyone loves stories about the underdog who beats the odds. We feel uplifted to hear about a ‘nobody’ who becomes a ‘somebody.’ This is just such a tale, and it is one that readers of all ages will enjoy. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the narrative, which is lighthearted and often amusing. It is clear that the author is a big fan of Casey, and that he is delighted to be telling his story.