display | more...

If I were playing third base
and my mother were rounding third
with the run that was going to beat us,
I'd trip her.
Oh, I'd pick her up
and brush her off
and say, "Sorry, Mom,"
but nobody beats me.

Leo Ernest Durocher was born June 27, 1905 in West Springfield, Massachusetts to a poor working class family. Eager to escape the life, he picked up baseball, leaving to sign with a traveling semi-pro team when he was 15. He showed enough talent that he was signed to the Yankees farm team in 1922.

Durocher began his major league playing career on the final day of 1925, when he played second base and pinch-hit for the New York Yankees in a doubleheader. He went back down to the minors and did not return until 1928, where he had a respectable rookie season, batting .270 in 102 games (and winning a World Series ring in the process).

Shaky Start

As long as I've got a chance to beat you
I'm going to take it.

Here the murky stories of Leo Durocher begin to blur the line between truth and fiction: it is widely conjectured that Durocher was caught stealing jewelry from teammate Babe Ruth's locker. Ruth beat Durocher up handily, and then demanded Durocher be traded. Whether or not this actually occurred, Durocher was sold to the Cincinnati Reds in 1930. Durocher played 3 forgettable seasons for the Reds, and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1934, where he immediately put himself in position as team captain. That year, the "Gashouse Gang," as the team was nicknamed (allegedly by Durocher himself), played a wild ragtag season full of exuberant finishes, close calls, and plenty of off-the-field antics. In the end, they won the World Series.

By this time, Durocher had won quite a reputation as a brash slick-fielding shortstop. He jawed a lot with umpires, earning him his nickname, "The Lip." A three-time All-Star], Durocher was known almost exclusively for his glove; he never batted higher than .286 in any season, and only hit 24 home runs in his 17 year career. Babe Ruth, no friend of The Lip's, once called him the "All-American out."

Throughout his career, Durocher's mouth got him in trouble again and again: he made antiunion comments on behalf of his wife's dress business in 1935, causing a boycott of his Cardinals; he got into fights with Casey Stengel, Zeke Bonura, and Joe Medwick, and in 1940 as player-manager he was fined for "inciting a riot" at his new team the Brooklyn Dodgers' Ebbets Field.

The Man Could Talk

In 1941, Durocher led his Dodgers to the pennant, losing a close World Series to the New York Yankees. The team continued to finish well in the pennant, although Durocher's 1945 retirement from the on-the-field side of his duties did little to stop his feistiness: in June of that year, he was arrested on charges of hitting a fan while a policeman was holding the man back. He was acquitted in April, 1946, although it is widely believed Durocher was guilty. Durocher's feistiness also proved invaluable in putting Jackie Robinson in a Dodgers uniform that April: of Robinson he said, "I don't care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fucking zebra. I'm the manager of this team and I say he plays." The next month, Durocher took part in an all-out brawl against the Chicago Cubs, and was suspended for 3 games. Still, this was small potatoes compared to what would happen to Durocher next.

Big Apple Business

When you're playing for money,
winning is the only thing that matters.

Durocher's celebrity status and egotistical nature proved to be a dangerous combination. He made friends with many Hollywood and Broadway stars, even marrying Laraine Day in 1947. Sometimes these connections led to less glamorous ones - many a times friends visiting Durocher in the locker room after a game would bring down other friends: gangsters. With racketeering still a major concern (after the 1919 Black Sox scandal), Durocher's friendships were noted with disdain by the local sportswriters. Eventually, Durocher admitted to the Commissioner Happy Chandler he had bet on racehorses, but that the whole thing was blown out of proportion. Unmoved, Chandler suspended Durocher for the entire 1947 season.

After sitting out his year, Durocher returned to manage the Dodgers in 1948, but was released and signed with in-town rivals the New York Giants in July. While his overt gangster connections had cooled, his temper apparently had not. He was arrested again in 1949 for assaulting a fan, although the charges were dropped just days later. In 1951, he took his Giants to the World Series (following the "Shot Heard 'Round The World" by Bobby Thomson), where he again faced his former team the Yankees. Just before the final game, he handed over a letter to Commissioner Ford Frick sent to Durocher anonymously, enticing him with $15,000 to lose the game. His team played hard, but lost on a last-inning, base-clearing triple; Durocher was still named Manager of the Year by the Associated Press.

The Fire Within

I never questioned the integrity of an umpire.
Their eyesight, yes.

Durocher didn't let up after winning the World Series; he was suspended and fined 3 times in 1952 for fighting with umpires, and in 1953, he was fined after ordering a pitcher to bean Dodgers star Carl Furillo. In 1955, the Giants released him as manager, and he effectively retired from baseball.

Any Which Way You Can

Win any way you can
as long as you can get away with it.

Now retired, Durocher continued to associate with Hollywood stars, and made several appearances on TV and radio. He appeared as a guest on "What's My Line?", "The Jack Benny Show", "The Judy Garland Show", and appeared as himself on both "Mr. Ed" and "The Beverly Hillbillies." However, "The Lip" didn't stay away from baseball long: after his divorce from Laraine in 1960, he returned to the Dodgers as third base coach. In 1962, charges that Durocher had been stealing signs via a telescope throughout his Giants tenure were vehemently denied, but it was revealed to be true by sources close to the Giants management. In August, Durocher nearly died of a fatal reaction to penicillin. Not his best year.

In 1965, the Chicago Cubs named Durocher manager. He spent 6 chilly seasons there, disliked by almost all of his players. One interesting note is that his ejection in a 1970 spring training game made him only the 4th person to be ejected in 6 different decades. In 1972, Durocher quit as manager of the Cubs and was hired in August to manage the first-place Houston Astros. The team buckled and finished second; Durocher retired again from baseball in 1973 after a third-place finish. In 1976, Durocher was offered a job managing a Japanese League team, the Yokohama Taiyo Whales, but he begged off, suffering from hepatitis.

A Not-So-Nice Guy

Leo "The Lip" Durocher died October 7, 1991 in Palm Springs, California. He was elected posthumously to the Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1994. He finished his baseball career with 3 World Series rings (2 from on the field), 3 pennant titles, 2000 wins as a manager, and served as one of the most colorful personalities ever to grace the game.

Nice guys
finish last.

Lifetime Statistics

 Year TEAM     G   AB   R    H  2B 3B  HR RBI SB CS  BB  SO  BA
 1925 NYY AL   2    1   1    0   0  0   0   0  0  0   0   0 .000
 1928 NYY AL 102  296  46   80   8  6   0  31  1  4  22  52 .270
 1929 NYY AL 106  341  53   84   4  5   0  32  3  1  34  33 .246
 1930 CIN NL 119  354  31   86  15  3   3  32  0  0  20  45 .243
 1931 CIN NL 121  361  26   82  11  5   1  29  0  0  18  32 .227
 1932 CIN NL 143  457  43   99  22  5   1  33  3  0  36  40 .217
 1933 CIN NL  16   51   6   11   1  0   1   3  0  0   4   5 .216
      STL NL 123  395  45  102  18  4   2  41  3  0  26  32 .258
      TOT NL 139  446  51  113  19  4   3  44  3  0  30  37 .253
 1934 STL NL 146  500  62  130  26  5   3  70  2  0  33  40 .260
 1935 STL NL 143  513  62  136  23  5   8  78  4  0  29  46 .265
 1936 STL NL 136  510  57  146  22  3   1  58  3  0  29  47 .286
 1937 STL NL 135  477  46   97  11  3   1  47  6  0  38  36 .203
 1938 BRO NL 141  479  41  105  18  5   1  56  3  0  47  30 .219
 1939 BRO NL 116  390  42  108  21  6   1  34  2  0  27  24 .277
 1940 BRO NL  62  160  10   37   9  1   1  14  1  0  12  13 .231
 1941 BRO NL  18   42   2   12   1  0   0   6  0  0   1   3 .286
 1943 BRO NL   6   18   1    4   0  0   0   1  0  0   1   2 .222
 1945 BRO NL   2    5   1    1   0  0   0   2  0  0   0   0 .200
 CAREER     1637 5350 575 1320 210 56  24 567 31  5 377 480 .247

Managerial Career

 YEAR        TEAM     G    W    L    WP  Finish
 1939 Brooklyn NL   157   84   69  .549       3
 1940 Brooklyn NL   156   88   65  .575       2
 1941 Brooklyn NL   157  100   54  .649       1
 1942 Brooklyn NL   155  104   50  .675       2
 1943 Brooklyn NL   153   81   72  .529       3
 1944 Brooklyn NL   155   63   91  .409       7
 1945 Brooklyn NL   155   87   67  .565       3
 1946 Brooklyn NL   157   96   60  .615       2
 1948 Brooklyn NL    73   35   37  .486       3
 1948 New York NL    79   41   38  .519       5
 1949 New York NL   156   73   81  .474       5
 1950 New York NL   154   86   68  .558       3
 1951 New York NL   157   98   59  .624       1
 1952 New York NL   154   92   62  .597       2
 1953 New York NL   155   70   84  .455       5
 1954 New York NL   154   97   57  .630       1
 1955 New York NL   154   80   74  .519       3
 1966  Chicago NL   162   59  103  .364      10
 1967  Chicago NL   162   87   74  .540       3
 1968  Chicago NL   163   84   78  .519       3
 1969  Chicago NL   163   92   70  .568       2
 1970  Chicago NL   162   84   78  .519       2
 1971  Chicago NL   162   83   79  .512       4
 1972  Chicago NL    91   46   44  .511       2
 1972  Houston NL    31   16   15  .516       2
 1973  Houston NL   162   82   80  .506       4
           TOTAL   3739 2008 1709  .540

Sources

  • TheBaseballPage.com - http://www.thebaseballpage.com/past/pp/durocherleo/default.htm
  • Baseball-Reference.com - http://www.baseball-reference.com/d/durocherle01.shtml
  • BaseballLibrary.com - http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/D/Durocher_Leo.stm

Index
Hugh Duffy | Billy Evans

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.