Leo Durocher

From BR Bullpen


Leo Ernest Durocher
(The Lip)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 160 lb.

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1994

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

"What are we at the park for except to win? I'd trip my mother. I'd help her up, brush her off, tell her I'm sorry. But mother don't make it to third." - Leo Durocher

"I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What's more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are traded." - Leo Durocher, settling the issue of Dodger players refusing to associate with Jackie Robinson in 1947 [1]

Leo "The Lip" Durocher was a big name in baseball for decades, and was named to the Hall of Fame in 1994 after his death.

Durocher grew up in a French-speaking family in Massachusetts. He wasn't one for school, preferring to frequent local pool halls as a teenager but also building a reputation as a formidable semi-pro baseball player in spite of his smallish size. Local companies would offer him to cushy jobs just so he could play on their baseball teams. In 1925, he signed with the New York Yankees, who assigned him to the Hartford Senators of the Eastern League. A weak-hitting shortstop, Durocher broke into the major leagues at the age of 19 for two games at the end of that season. He returned to the minors with the Atlanta Crackers in 1926 and the St. Paul Saints in 1927 before making the Yankees' roster for good in 1928.

He played two full seasons with the Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, appearing in the 1928 World Series. After some time with the Cincinnati Reds, he became part of the famous Gas House Gang with the St. Louis Cardinals in the mid 1930s, reaching the World Series again in 1934. He finished his career playing several seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and started his long managerial career while still a player in 1939. During his playing days, Durocher made the All-Star team three times. He was the first Dodgers player to ever get a hit in an All-Star Game.

His major league playing career lasted from 1925 to 1945, while his major league managerial career was from 1939 to 1973. In spite of his long managerial career, he managed only four teams - the Dodgers from 1939 to 1946 (and part of 1948), the New York Giants from part of 1948 to 1955, the Chicago Cubs from 1966 to part of 1972, and the Houston Astros for part of 1972 and in 1973. His teams won the 1941 National League pennant, the 1951 National League pennant and the 1954 World Series (featuring a young Willie Mays), but his 1969 Chicago Cubs team had a famous fizzle. In addition to his managerial jobs, he was a Los Angeles Dodgers coach from 1961 to 1964.

As a manager, he won 2,008 games, losing 1,709, for a .540 winning percentage.

"Give me some scratching, diving, hungry ballplayers who come to kill you." - Leo Durocher

He was a very controversial figure, often described as "brash" and "abrasive". Although a light-hitting shortstop, he had an image as a tough guy. He was rumored at one point to hang out with gangsters, and was suspended in 1947 for associating with gamblers. That year, the Dodgers won the pennant with mild-mannered Burt Shotton at the helm. However, he had time to make sure Jackie Robinson would make the team before being handed his suspension, a move that was probably as instrumental as any in leading to that pennant.

His autobiography is called Nice Guys Finish Last after a comment (paraphrased) he once made about Mel Ott as a manager. The true quote, however, wasn't as snappy. He originally said of the rival New York Giants: "The nice guys are all over there. In seventh place."

As a young ballplayer, Leo's roommate with the Yankees, Babe Ruth, nicknamed him "the All-American Out." Elden Auker, in his book Sleeper Cars and Flannel Uniforms, tells the story of how young Durocher stole money from the Babe, earning a bad reputation that long remained within baseball circles only.

A story which may not be true, but one certainly may hope is: "Leo the Lip" didn't get along with umpires, and one umpire in particular he had problems with. One day, that ump had first base, and there was a close play there, when a player on Durocher's team tried to slide into the bag, and ended up bowling the umpire over. Dazed for a little bit, he was unable to make a call right away. As he started coming out of his fog, the first thing he heard was an old familiar voice saying "Well, was he safe or was he out?" Without hesitating he replied, "If that's you, Leo, he was out!"

He had four wives, and was married to actress Laraine Day [1] from 1947 to 1960. Day knew nothing about baseball when she met Durocher, but became a very devoted baseball fan. Durocher was friendly with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and enjoyed his Hollywood connections. He once played himself on The Munsters, a 1960s TV comedy about a ghoulish family living in suburbia. He is there to scout Herman Munster for the Los Angeles Dodgers. At seven feet and six inches tall and 380 pounds, Munster hit shots that dwarfed the best efforts of Babe Ruth. Actor Fred Gwynne played the lovable, if child-like, version of Frankenstein's monster. Ultimately, Herman stuck with his more fitting job at a cemetery.

"Stick it in his ear!" was another well-known Durocher battle cry.

There is a popular story (first written by John Holway in 1954) that during a 1953 New York Giants-Japan tour, Durocher, assuming the Japanese couldn't speak English, screamed from the third base coaching box for the runner at first to steal. However, the catcher Jun Hirota, who was a Japanese-American, spoke fluent English and gunned the runner by 20 feet. This story has been debunked and Durocher had spoken to Hirota prior to the game. In fact, Leo wound up teaching Hirota how to better hide his signals.

He was a TV commentator in the 1950s between managerial assignments.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Preceded by
Burleigh Grimes
Brooklyn Dodgers Manager
Succeeded by
Clyde Sukeforth
Preceded by
Burt Shotton
Brooklyn Dodgers Manager
Succeeded by
Burt Shotton
Preceded by
Mel Ott
New York Giants Manager
Succeeded by
Bill Rigney
Preceded by
Lou Klein
Chicago Cubs Manager
Succeeded by
Whitey Lockman
Preceded by
Harry Walker
Houston Astros Manager
Succeeded by
Preston Gomez

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1939 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 84-69 3rd Brooklyn Dodgers
1940 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 88-65 2nd Brooklyn Dodgers
1941 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 100-54 1st Brooklyn Dodgers Lost World Series
1942 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 104-50 2nd Brooklyn Dodgers
1943 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 81-72 3rd Brooklyn Dodgers
1944 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 63-91 7th Brooklyn Dodgers
1945 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 87-67 3rd Brooklyn Dodgers
1946 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 96-60 2nd Brooklyn Dodgers
1948 Brooklyn Dodgers National League 35-37 -- Brooklyn Dodgers Replaced by Ray Blades on July 15
New York Giants National League 41-38 5th New York Giants Replaced Mel Ott (37-38) on July 17
1949 New York Giants National League 73-81 5th New York Giants
1950 New York Giants National League 86-68 3rd New York Giants
1951 New York Giants National League 98-59 1st New York Giants Lost World Series
1952 New York Giants National League 92-62 2nd New York Giants
1953 New York Giants National League 70-84 5th New York Giants
1954 New York Giants National League 97-57 1st New York Giants World Series Champs
1955 New York Giants National League 80-74 3rd New York Giants
1966 Chicago Cubs National League 59-103 10th Chicago Cubs
1967 Chicago Cubs National League 87-74 3rd Chicago Cubs
1968 Chicago Cubs National League 84-78 3rd Chicago Cubs
1969 Chicago Cubs National League 92-70 2nd Chicago Cubs
1970 Chicago Cubs National League 84-78 2nd Chicago Cubs
1971 Chicago Cubs National League 83-79 4th Chicago Cubs
1972 Chicago Cubs National League 46-44 -- Chicago Cubs Replaced by Whitey Lockman on July 27
Houston Astros National League 16-15 2nd Houston Astros Replaced Harry Walker (67-54) and Salty Parker (1-0)
on August 27
1973 Houston Astros National League 82-80 4th Houston Astros


Further Reading[edit]

  • Paul Dickson: Leo Durocher: Baseball's Prodigal Son, Bloomsbury Publishing, New York, NY, 2017. ISBN 9781632863119
  • Leo Durocher and Ed Linn: Nice Guys Finish Last, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 2009 (originally published in 1975). ISBN 0226173887
  • Jimmy Keenan: "From the Gashouse to the Glasshouse: Leo Durocher and the 1972–73 Houston Astros", in Cecilia Tan, ed.: Baseball in the Space Age: Houston since 1961, 'The National Pastime, SABR, 2014, pp. 55-59.
  • Jeffrey Martlett: "Leo Durocher", in Charles F. Faber, ed.: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals: The World Champion Gas House Gang, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2014, pp. 102-107. ISBN 978-1-933599-731
  • Bryan Soderholm-Difatte: "Durocher the Spymaster: How Much Did the Giants Prosper from Cheating in 1951?", The Baseball Record Journal, SABR, Volume 41, Number 2 (Fall 2012), pp. 77-86.
  • Mort Zachter: "If Gil Hodges Managed the Cubs and Leo Durocher the Mets in 1969, Whose “Miracle” Would it Have Been?", in Stuart Shea, ed.: North Side, South Side, All Around Town, The National Pastime, SABR, 2015. ISBN 978-1-93359987-8

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