Walter Alston & Casey Stengel Successful Today? Not Likely, Says Pitcher Larry Miller

Back in 2001, former pitcher Larry Miller still threw strikes.

Verbal strikes, that is.

Miller didn’t sugar-coat his opinions when asked about hurling for two
Hall of Fame managers in a three-year career. Furthermore, Miller slung
a high, hard one at the 1960s Mets organization.

“I never got to know either Alston or Stengel as people,” Miller began. “As managers, they had similar skills as far as making proper strategic moves during a game. Neither spent much effort trying to connect with the players. My belief is that neither would be very successful managing today’s players who require and demand special considerations.”

When coach Wes Westrum took over the Mets following Stengel’s retirement, Miller felt that the new manager was doomed.

“Westrum took over a team still brimming with expansion players. The core of the ’69 Mets (Seaver, Ryan, Koosman, McGraw, etc.) were just coming into the organization as minor leaguers. The best manager in baseball at that time would have had difficulty improving the Mets record.

“The old saying ‘You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken s – – – ‘ applies here.”

Casey Stengel: The Ultimate Inscription

Letters get read!

I still remember the return envelope from Glendale, CA. He used
his own address label. Hall of Famer Casey Stengel read the letter
my brother Matt and I sent him.

“To Tom and Matt. Good luck, Ducks!”

I’m sure he offered the same encouragement before each World Series
game to his Yankees.

Ever since age 11, I’ve believed in baseball.

Wes Westrum’s Minnesota Baseball Roots

Wes Westrum’s baseball heyday came in New York. He logged a decade catching for the Giants, racking up two All-Star team nods and a 1954 World Championship ring. Westrum returned to the Big Apple as a Mets coach, becoming manager when Casey Stengel fractured his hip and was forced to retire.

All those New York headlines could never match the drama of Westrum’s Minnesota roots. I grew in admiration for any Minnesota native developing as a major leaguer after reading Stew Thornley’s fine Baseball in Minnesota: A Definitive History Thornley has documented the rise of Westrum and his Minnesotan counterparts in Minnesotans in Baseball

Before he died at age 79 in 2002, Westrum sent an epic description of his evolution as a baseball player. (I asked about his place in Minnesota baseball history, along with memories of other native sons. Mentioning that my wife was born in Redwood Falls may have helped increase my chances at a response!)

Westrum wrote:

“Spent all my youth in all the sports. My father died at an early age (37). Baseball was the quickest way to help the family. I was a better football player and had a scholarship to Minnesota. Played pro baseball while in high school so I couldn’t go. Played basketball at Bemidji State Teachers one year before Uncle Sam got me.

Caught Paul Giel in his first game with the New York Giants. Great competitor and wonderful fellow. I was Jerry Koosman’s coach and manager with the New York Mets. Great person.

Russ Rolandson from Alexandria was with us in 1947 with Minneapolis Millers. He was a catcher from the College of Hamline.

Bill Dickey of the Yankees was my idol growing up in the small town of Clearbrook, Minnesota. The people of Clearbrook took up a small collection of $65 to send me to the Crookston (MN) Pirates in my junior year of high school. I made the (minor league) team.

Lots of fond memories of those days. Best always, ‘Wes’ Westrum”

The local hero did return. Westrum passed away in Clearbrook, Minnesota May 28, 2002. Did his friends and neighbors realize they were investing $65 in an all-star career? Clearbrook did in 1990, opening the Wes Westrum Baseball Museum.

One grateful catcher never forgot one hometown’s kindness.

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