with Leo Durocher began long before the spring of 1947, when I suspended him
from baseball for a year. I could have made it for life. I said at the time
that I did it to "keep him from killing somebody." I meant exactly
that. In many ways Leo Durocher, then manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, had been
a discredit to baseball. He had performed the misdeeds of 10 men. But if you
had read the New York papers, you would have thought I had dropped the
guillotine on Albert Schweitzer. Poor Leo.
Well, I know Leo
Durocher. He is a slick-dressing, glib-tongued swashbuckler who never went into
a place looking as though he owned it. He didn't give a damn who owned it. In
retrospect I'm not sure that suspension didn't save him. I think he's been a
better boy since.
I had no trouble
making up my mind to suspend Durocher. Frequently in politics I had made
tougher decisions. There was, for instance, the time when I refused as governor
of Kentucky to commute a death sentence. Ten minutes before the condemned man
went to his death he wrote me a letter saying, "I appreciate the
clost"—he spelled it that way, I'll never forget it!—"consideration you
gave my case. I don't want you to be too deeply concerned about me. I've made
my peace with God. I'm guilty. I killed them fellows without cause. I wished I
hadn't, but I killed them. I don't want you to feel sadly, because you are only
carrying out your duty. It wasn't your fault, it was mine."
Now, do you think
for one moment that after something like that, I would have lost any sleep over
the likes of Leo Durocher?
I knew Leo had a
hair-trigger temper. He was on the defensive all the time—against the fans, the
umpires, everybody. The first time Leo ran afoul of me was when he was accused
of beating up a fan under the stands in Brooklyn and breaking his jaw. This
young fellow had called him names all day, but a ballplayer or manager has to
get used to verbal abuse, and the story Durocher told did not inspire
confidence. He admitted that he chased the fellow, but said the man hurt
himself falling on wet cement. There was a trial and he was acquitted. He paid
the boy off—$6,750—not to continue the case in civil court.
A close shave,
but it didn't end there. Leo's trespasses began to repeat themselves. He was
constantly in a row with one umpire or another, he was prone to use his fists
more than a man ought to and his marital affairs were well publicized. Some
time before I suspended him I gave him the names of undesirable people he
should never again be seen with—Memphis Engelberg, Connie Immerman, Bernie
Siegel, Joe Adonis and others, including George Raft.
Raft came to see
me about "this Durocher thing." I liked him, but I saw no reason to
argue with him. I said, "George, do you have a contract in
"Then, George, go away, please. If Durocher plays cards for money and
gambles, I have to be concerned with him but not with you. So please, just go
He said, "But
I got a bum rap."