From his birth in 1905 in West Springfield, Massachusetts, to his death in 1991 in Palm Springs, California, Leo Durocher witnessed a great deal of social, political, and international change, some of which he helped bring about. Durocher played an important supporting role in the integration of Major League Baseball. His frank assessment of African American baseball talent remains a simple, if coarse, endorsement of the American belief in meritocracy. He stood in the third-base coach’s box for one of baseball’s most memorable home runs, Bobby Thomson’s 1951 “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” off Ralph Branca. He led the New York Giants to a surprising World Series victory in 1954.
More than a decade later, he piloted the Chicago Cubs through six and a half frustrating seasons, always falling short of the postseason. Along the way Durocher kept company with movie stars, entertainers, and an entire retinue of shady underworld characters. He had legal difficulties, four divorces, and fights with fans, jilted women, and angered husbands, fathers, and boyfriends. Through it all he maintained the utmost confidence in his own ability to come out ahead. Then as now, many have seen Durocher’s competitiveness as an excuse for playing dirty.
Durocher found success in both playing and managing, winning World Series titles while playing shortstop for the 1928 Yankees and 1934 Cardinals and then as the manager of the 1954 Giants. He won National League pennants but no world championships with the 1941 Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1951 Giants. Finally, the famous phrase “Nice guys finish last,” attributed to him, has achieved recognition throughout American culture.
Leo Durocher’s one-year suspension stunned the baseball
Leo Ernest Durocher was born on July 27, 1905, to George and Clarinda (Provost) Durocher in West Springfield, Massachusetts. He was the youngest of four sons, but at five feet ten grew to be the tallest. His French Canadian parents often spoke French at home. Like his older brothers, Leo served Mass at the local Quebecois parish, St. Louis.