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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Today's Birthdays

Jack Doscher BRO b. 1880, played 1903-1906, d. 1971-05-27

Leo Durocher BRO b. 1905, played 1938-1941, 1943, 1945, All-Star: 1936, 1938, 1940, Hall of Fame: 1994 (Veterans), d. 1991-10-07.

Leo Durocher, Leo Durocher
Starts to wiggle and to twitch.
A signal? No, an itch!
— Danny Kaye, "The Dodgers Song"
Slick-fielding, feisty holler guys like Durocher often become big league managers, for they leave the impression that guile, desire, and baseball acumen compensate for their lack of skill, a combination of qualities they are presumed capable of instilling in others; Billy Martin is perhaps the most pronounced example of the type. While few such managers have actually been able to endow their players with these qualities, Durocher could.
— Glenn Stout, The Dodgers
A light-hitting shortstop who played and managed the game as if it were "a sports relative of guerilla warfare", he was an acrobatic and brilliant glove man; he set a record for double plays in Cincinnati (86, in 1931) that he subsequently broke with the Dodgers (90, in 1938). He loved taunting umpires as both a player, and later, in his long and distinguished managerial career. He won World Series rings with the 1927 and 1928 Yankees and again with the 1934 Cardinals as a player. As a manager, he won pennants with the 1941 Dodgers and 1951 Giants (thank you, Bobby Thompson), and a fourth career World Series ring with the 1954 Giants.

Durocher's first major league charge as a manager was the Dodgers, at first as a player-manager in 1939-41, 1943, and 1945, and as a manager only in 1943, 1944, and 1946 and 1948. He spent 1947 suspended from baseball thanks to a scuffle with baseball commissioner Happy Chandler and team owner Larry MacPhail. Durocher had a high-stakes poker game going that was enough to draw Chandler's ire; when Durocher's ghostwritten column in the Brooklyn Eagle mentioned gamblers in MacPhail's company while the team barnstormed Cuba as part of spring training (there were no fixed spring training facilities or leagues in those days), that was it. MacPhail filed a formal charge with Chandler, and simultaneously, his wife filed for divorce, in those days a huge scandal by itself. By April 9, Chandler suspended him for the year.

Durocher seems, from Stout's telling of it, to have had mixed feelings about Jackie Robinson's entry into baseball but enforced it anyway, though some accounts say his words were more emphatic than, "if the old man [Rickey] wants him to play, he's going to play." And that was that, for the most part; the player's petition group either acceded to his place on the team grudgingly, or found themselves traded.

After Durocher's reinstatement in 1948, the Dodgers collapsed; by July 7, they were in last place, and this time, MacPhail fired Durocher, bringing back the man who had managed the Dodgers to a pennant the year before, Burt Shotton. On July 15, Durocher replaced Mel Ott at the helm of the floundering Giants. After guiding the Giants to a 1951 pennant and their 1954 World Series title, he retired in 1955, becoming a television commentator for a while. In 1966, he left retirement when the Cubs called upon him to manage again. He did, through 1972, and had a prominent role in the team's stupendous collapse of 1969, failing to rest any of his regulars throughout the season. Cubs shortstop Don Kessinger refused to blame him for that, but Bill James did, writing
Kessinger was going through his first pennant race; he couldn't be expected to see where they were headed. Durocher was going through maybe his 25th pennant race. Durocher should have had the foresight to see where this was headed.
He spent a couple more years, 1972 and 1973, in the dugout with the Astros, though by that time he was senile; weeks into the season he still didn't know the names of some of his players.

Jim Faulkner BRO b. 1899, played 1930, d. 1962-06-01

Tom Goodwin LAN b. 1968, played 1991-1993, 2000-2001

Jack Hiatt CAL,LAA b. 1942, played 1964, 1972

Bill Sayles BRO b. 1917, played 1943, d. 1996-11-20

Zack Taylor BRO b. 1898, played 1920-1925, 1935, d. 1974-09-19


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