I said, "I
didn't give it to you."
Durocher went to Havana for spring training, and in a column ghostwritten by
Harold Parrott, the traveling secretary of the Dodgers, he declared war on the
New York Yankees and especially Larry MacPhail. He had seen MacPhail in the
box-seat section next to two gamblers at the Havana ball park and he complained
that a double standard existed.
joined him in the dispute. MacPhail countercharged that Durocher's conduct was
detrimental to baseball. Recriminations flew, and some feelings were hurt
beyond repair. The relationship between MacPhail and Rickey finally
deteriorated to the point that neither ever spoke to the other again.
One day I got a
call concerning Durocher from Frank Murphy, the Supreme Court justice, an
honorable and honored man. I've never revealed this before, but I imagine that
Murphy, who is dead now, wouldn't mind my telling it. He said,
"Commissioner, you are a man of character. You must do something to stop
this fellow." I said I would. Murphy, who was a Catholic—and at this point
a very angry Catholic—said, "If you don't, I'm going to advise the Catholic
Youth Organization to prohibit its youngsters from going to ball games this
year." The CYO subsequently did withdraw from the Dodger Knothole Club but
returned almost immediately when Burt Shotton was named Durocher's
I thought for a
long time about how I should handle Durocher. I came to the conclusion that
more than one person ought to be shaken by whatever action I took in his case.
Accordingly, on April 9, less than a week before the season was to begin, I
fined the two warring clubs, the Dodgers (Rickey) and Yankees (MacPhail),
$2,000 apiece, a lot of money in those days; I fined Parrott $500 for being
involved in things which were not his business. (I later gave Parrott back his
$500.) I suspended Chuck Dressen, the Yankee coach. And for his accumulation of
sins, I suspended Leo Durocher for a year. Then I ordered all parties
As expected, the
New York columnists hastened to defend their fallen hero. TIME magazine summed
up the situation accurately enough. "Commissioner Chandler," it wrote,
"had done the seemingly impossible: he had made Leo Durocher a sympathetic
figure." I must admit I didn't think anybody could do that.
But we Americans
are a peculiar people. We are for the underdog no matter how much of a dog he
is. Denny McLain got all the sympathy after his suspension and the loyal,
hard-working catcher, Bill Freehan, who just happened to agree in print that
McLain was not exactly Little Lord Fauntleroy, got the boos.
Two and a half
weeks after the Durocher episode they had Babe Ruth Day at Yankee Stadium—the
day when the great Ruth, nearing death, a shadow of a man leaning pathetically
into the microphone, said his goodbys, that gravelly, rasping voice barely
audible. I was advised by friends that my popularity in New York was not at its
zenith and that if I went I would be booed. I said I would be there, boos or no
They booed, all
right. My, how they booed. But I was going to have my say and eventually I did,
short as it was. And then a funny thing happened. The boos began to subside,
and they began to cheer. And the cheering got louder. So I lived. And the
circumstances, I could have been more severe with Durocher. But I could not
have been less severe. Durocher didn't run a red light, he ran 100 red lights.
In my opinion he was at a point where he thought he was beyond the law, that he
was bigger than baseball itself. If I had it to do over, I'd suspend him