Spec Richardson remembers sitting down on the night he fired Harry Walker and writing five or six names on a piece of paper. One of the names was Leo Durocher's. Without conferring with anyone. Spec says he phoned Durocher and offered him the job. "Leo's age didn't bother me," Spec says. "I thought our club ought to be doing better, and Leo might fire 'em up."
"I wouldn't have taken the job if it had been some team like Texas or San Diego," Durocher said. He was walking toward the locker room at Candlestick Park wearing a three-shades-of-purple outfit with a turtleneck over a sweater. " Houston has the nucleus of a top ball club. I couldn't spend years trying to build a team.
"I'll tell you, the players make the manager. A good manager can win six, seven, eight games in a season. All big-league managers are different, but we all know the game. No manager is smarter than I am, and I'm no smarter than any of the others. I may gamble where another manager is conservative. But a manager has got to have the right guy on the field to get the job done, no matter what his philosophy is."
Durocher signed some autographs, the papers flapping in the cool, windy afternoon. "So a manager likes to know people have confidence in him. Like what happened to me in the middle of 1948. I was managing Brooklyn. I went in to Mr. Rickey and said, "I want to ask you two questions. The first is, am I still the manager?' He said yes, I was. The second question, then,' I said, 'is will I be the manager at the end of the season?' Mr. Rickey turned and looked out the window. Well, it was nine o'clock at night and pitch dark outside. That's when I told Mr. Rickey to give me the phone, and I called Horace Stoneham and became manager of the Giants."
Durocher was pulling on his road uniform with the No. 2 on the back. Players wandered through the locker room. One player had just been telling how the house doctor in a certain city refuses to enter the visiting locker room when Durocher is in town. "Leo could never be a general manager because he always had too many enemies," the player said.
"I don't think I've mellowed any," Durocher said a few minutes later. "You might call it mellowed in a sense, because you can't manage like you did years ago. Players are more sensitive, got more freedom, got a union, make big money. If I holler at a $200,000 bonus kid, and he packs and goes home, it's me the owner is gonna come down on.
"When you lost a game under old John McGraw, you didn't dare untie a shoelace until he left the clubhouse. He would be dressed in street clothes, and he'd roll up his sleeves and wash his hands and arms like a doctor. Do it several times. Maybe for hours. And you'd sit there and not dare move until he was gone. Now if you want to tell a young kid something, you've got to take him into the office, shut the door and explain it to him. There's not as many good ballplayers now, either, because kids can play golf or tennis, things not many kids could do in the olden days. But, hell, it's baseball. It's been my life."
Durocher tugged on the bill of his cap and glanced at himself in the mirror. "I've never wanted to do anything else," he said. "Politics, show business, big business, none of that stuff. Baseball's it for me. It's been my life."