If the National League's agonizing three-way stretch did not leave enough baseball unresolved last week, there was additional speculative fun to be had elsewhere. Supplying some of that was Joe Gordon, manager of the second-place Cleveland Indians, who, with a "You can't fire me, I quit," took leave of his job and his terrible-tempered boss, Frank Lane. Supplying the rest was Leo Durocher, who suddenly up and announced he was quitting his lavishly greenbacked ($65,000 plus expenses) sportscasting job with NBC and heading back to the game.
Where Gordon would go, said the insiders, was to Detroit, and Jimmy Dykes, already there, would probably go back to Pittsburgh as a coach. Where Durocher would go just might be Cleveland, but any substantial evidence was harder to find than the hair on Leo's pate. Frank Lane, who talked to Durocher in Pittsburgh where Leo was doing a Pirates-Reds telecast, said both of them had more than one bat in the rack and no decision would be reached until this week. What Durocher was also thinking about may have been San Francisco. Support for that thesis comes not from San Francisco but from Los Angeles, Leo's home town. There, they are saying, quoting the NBC water-cooler set, that Owner Horace Stoneham some time ago addressed Durocher like this: "Leo, you gotta help me. I don't think Rig [ Manager Bill Rigney] is going to win the pennant." Or Leo may be considering Branch Rickey's suggestion that he join the warmups of the Continental League. Or just as likely, he may be holding out for the best offer that turns up.
While Leo was minding his lip, Mrs. Leo, the pretty half of the Durocher team, who is better known as Laraine Day, was minding their $250,000 Beverly Hills dugout. Where does Mr. Durocher hope to find work next, she was asked. " Mr. Durocher makes his own decisions," Laraine answered. "What he says is up to him." You were once quoted as saying that if he went back to baseball, he must have a slight hole in his head, she was told. "I was wholly misquoted," she said.
A young boy who admired Mr. Durocher as a baseball manager ( New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers) once said: "I liked him because he used to kick dirt on the umpire's pants." Leo is still capable of clouding issues, but it was pretty clear through the week's dust that seven ball clubs in one of the major leagues are going to have an old-fashioned leonine Durocher club clawing at them in 1960.
A Most Unhappy Velella
According to a cynical doctrine known as Begun's Law, there are three sides to every story: my side, your side and the truth. Begun's Law is named after its promulgator, Jack Begun, a Chicago wise guy who may have said it first.
Last week in New York, Begun's Law got a public workout during the State Athletic Commission's belated hearing into what it grandly calls "Alleged Irregularities in the Conduct of the Promotion of the Patterson-Johansson World's Heavyweight Championship Contest."
This magazine first published Bill Rosensohn's side of the irregularities, which the contrite promoter subsequently told the New York grand jury in amplified form and again recounted to the boxing commission in all its sordid detail last week. Vincent J. Velella, the alternately truculent and soulful East Harlem mouthpiece who controls two-thirds of Rosensohn Enterprises, Inc., told his side to the grand jury and last week recounted it to the boxing commission in all its innocent lack of detail.
The Velella and Rosensohn stories were preposterously contradictory and, at first, it was hard to say which of them, if either, was the truth. But as the testimony unfolded last week in the commission's green chamber off Broadway, Rosensohn's side began to sound more like the third side in Begun's Law.
The major differences between the two accounts involve the roles of East Harlem Mobster Tony (Fat) Salerno and Charley Black, an intimate of Cus D'Amato's and a witness pathetically torn by old loyalties. Rosensohn contends that Salerno, using Velella as his front, and Black were partners in the promotion with him. Velella and Black admit knowing Salerno but deny that he was a partner. Black also denies that he was ever a partner.