To Leo's credit,
he never came crying to me. A year after his suspension, when the Dodgers
dedicated their spring training site at Vero Beach, Fla., Rickey tried with
indifferent success to get us to make up. He took me to where Leo was standing
at the batting cage and we shook hands. I said, "Good luck, Leo," and
he said, "Thank you, commissioner." And that was it. He was back and it
We never met
again until 2½ years ago, when we just happened together in the corridor of a
San Francisco hotel. And it was the same sort of scintillating conversation:
"Hello, commissioner." "Hello, Leo." And we shook hands. Later
some newspapermen teased Durocher about his performance. They said, "You're
always talking about what you're going to do to Chandler. You all but hugged
him." I'm told Leo replied, "My first impulse when we shook hands was
to take my free hand and hit him."
I don't think he
meant that, of course, but I have some very loyal friends in Kentucky, and one
of them is a husky fellow named Frank Hare, a construction boss in Lexington.
He was with me at the time, and he later read what Durocher said. He sat down
immediately and wrote Durocher, saying, "Mr. Durocher, my name is Frank
Hare, and I live at such and such an address, and I was standing in the lobby
behind Governor Chandler when you shook hands with him in San Francisco. I
noticed you're quoted as regretting you didn't take your free hand and hit
Governor Chandler. If you so desire, I will arrange to have that scene set up
again at whatever time and place you choose, because if you are so inclined, I
would take great pleasure in knocking your head off."
We never heard
any more from Leo.
The tragic, funny
thing about the Durocher suspension was that in the end it probably served to
weaken my position as commissioner of baseball rather than strengthen it—at
least in terms of the owners' support. Not that they minded being rid of Leo
for a year. They never complained about that. But they didn't want a strong
commissioner. I found that out. So you might say that in the end Leo won and I
lost, because he's still in baseball; I'm not.
I have always
believed that the game of baseball deserves—demands—to be kept as free as
possible of questionable influence or association. Shortly after I entered
office I issued an advisory against attendance at racetracks. I didn't want my
players to risk the appearance of evil. I said this even though I came from a
racehorse state and enjoyed going to the races myself. But I didn't go while I
was commissioner. My wife and daughter Mimi went out to Churchill Downs one
Saturday and had their picture taken there, and somebody said, "What about
this?" And I said, "Which club do they play for?"
If baseball is a
game of the people, then you should listen to what the people say. Fred Saigh
owned the St. Louis Cardinals, and when he got control of the club he swelled
up with importance, trying to act like the big personalities he was now
associating with. Saigh was the kind of fellow who was either at your feet or
at your throat.
He once wanted to
schedule a Sunday night game to make up a rained-out date with Brooklyn. I told
him if he tried that, the people would rise up against him. The major leagues
had long ago reached an accommodation with the churches for dividing up their
Sundays: no day games until after church was out, no night games to interfere
with church functions. I told Saigh if he got the church people on him they
might get mad and make him quit playing on Sunday altogether. Reluctantly, he
decided not to play.
In the 1946 World
Series the Cardinals' manager, a fellow named Eddie Dyer, used a very vulgar
expression as a preamble to an argument with an umpire. Some ladies in a box
seat next to mine heard it. One of them turned to me and said,
"Commissioner, can't you do anything about that?"
I said, "Not
right now, but I can assure you it won't pass unnoticed."