Temperamental and bombastic, he is responsible for the famous line "Nice guys finish last." He was actually misquoted slightly (though that is the title of his autobiography.) In 1947, when he was the manager of Brooklyn Dodgers, he was talking to reporters when he directed his attention to the Giant dugout and said, "Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any other Giants? The nice guys over there are in last place!" The Giants finished fourth, but less than a year later, Durocher replaced Ott in mid-season.
Leo Durocher was a "good-field, no-hit" shortstop for 17 years with the Yankees, Reds, Cardinals and Dodgers, retiring with a lifetime .247 batting average and 24 career homers after more than 1,600 big league games.
But it was his record as a manager that got him into the Hall of Fame. His combative, swashbuckling style, brilliant baseball mind, uncanny memory and fiery disposition also became his trade marks as a colorful, controversial manager for 24 seasons with the Dodgers, Giants, Cubs and Astros. He compiled 2,008 wins in 3,739 games, capturing pennants in 1941 and 1951 and the World Series in 1954.
He was named Manager of the Year three times by The Sporting News. Durocher is one of seven managers to amass more than 2,000 wins - the others are:
Connie Mack ------ 3,731
John McGraw ------ 2,763
Sparky Anderson --- 2,194
Bucky Harris ------- 2,157
Joe McCarthy ------ 2,125
Walter Alston ------ 2,040
Durocher spent his first full major league season with the 1928 World Champion Yankees, and became New York's starting shortstop in 1929. He moved on to the Reds in 1930, and the Cardinals in 1933, becoming captain of the "Gashouse Gang" in 1934. His last season as a first-stringer came with the 1939 Dodgers. Never much of a hitter, he topped .260 only five times in 17 years, with a high of .286 in 1936. He became an All-Star mostly on the strength of his glovework; a flashy, acrobatic SS, he led the NL in fielding in '36 and 1938.
He was player-manager of the Dodgers in 1939-41, 1943, and 1945, though he played only a few games in the latter three years. He guided the Dodgers to the NL pennant in 1941, and to second-place finishes in 1940, 1942, and 1946. Perhaps his finest moment as Dodger manager came in spring training of 1947 when he personally quashed a rebellion by players who were protesting the presence of Jackie Robinson.
Durocher's tenure in Brooklyn was marked by - among other things - feuds with GM Branch Rickey, who could not always tolerate Durocher's antics and managing style. Durocher liked the card table and favored the horse track. Stories emerged that he was friendly with such characters as Bugsy Siegel. In 1945, he was indicted for assaulting a fan under the stands. His problems reached a peak in 1947, when he was suspended for the season for reputed association with gamblers. The Dodgers won the pennant with Burt Shotton at the helm instead.
Durocher returned in 1948, gave rookie Roy Campanella the catching job, and moved young Gil Hodges to first base. But the Dodgers fell to last place on July 7. Eight days later, Rickey fired Durocher and rehired Shotton, as the rival Giants fired their manager, Mel Ott, and hired Durocher. Durocher guided the Giants to a pennant in 1951, overtaking the Dodgers in a spectacular race and defeating them in the subsequent playoff, thanks to Bobby Thomson. In 1954, Durocher led New York to his only Series victory. After the 1955 season, he became a TV commentator.
Durocher returned to manage the Cubs from 1966 until late in 1972, and the
Astros through 1973, finishing second several times. Toward the end, his
players were aware that he was becoming senile; some were with Durocher for
weeks before the manager knew who they were. He retired among the
all-times leaders in games managed (3,740), wins (2,010), and losses (1,710).
His life story was told in his autobiography,
"Give me some scratching, diving, hungry ballplayers who come to kill you... Some guys are admired for coming to play, as the saying goes. I prefer those who come to kill."
— Leo Durocher
"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 Durocher
"God watches over drunks and third baseman."
— Leo Durocher
"It was Brooklyn against the world. They were not only complete fanatics, but they knew baseball like the fans of no other city. It was exciting to play there. It was a treat. I walked into that crummy, flyblown park as Brooklyn manager for nine years, and every time I entered, my pulse quickened and my spirits soared."
— Leo Durocher
"Nice guys finish last."
— Leo Durocher, about Mel Ott
"He had the ability of taking a bad situation and making it immediately worse."
— Branch Rickey
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