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Leo Durocher
April 14, 1975
In which Durocher becomes the manager of the Dodgers, battles for and with his explosive boss and wins a famous pennant race
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April 14, 1975

Tales Of Leo And Larry

In which Durocher becomes the manager of the Dodgers, battles for and with his explosive boss and wins a famous pennant race

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"You don't belong here. You want to talk to one of my players, you send for him up in your office. This is our clubhouse, our home. Don't you come in here and start ranting and raving. If there's any ranting and raving to be done in this room, I'll do it."

Well, he spluttered, he didn't have to send for me to fire me. "I can fire you right here. You're fired!"

Larry went stomping out, the players came filing back and we all looked down at his battered Panama and went into hysterics.

That wasn't the last time he came into the clubhouse. And certainly not the last time he tried to become the manager. I had taken a team that had finished in seventh place, and on the last day of the season we clinched third place, the highest for Brooklyn in the memory of man.

After that we had great hopes going into 1940. Dolph Camilli wanted $15,000, which he richly deserved. He had played every game for me, knocked in 104 runs and was far and away the best fielding first baseman in baseball. But he also wanted $500 to cover the expense of bringing his wife and four children to Florida from San Francisco, a bit of information he imparted to MacPhail after he reported for spring training. MacPhail roared that he wasn't running any kindergarten here, and he wasn't responsible for Camilli's "eight kids."

Camilli was a quiet, gentle man but he was as strong as an ox. His brother, who fought under the name of Frankie Campbell, had been a leading heavyweight contender before he was killed in the ring by Max Baer. Nobody knew how well Dolph could fight because, quite frankly, nobody ever had wanted to find out. Nobody, anyway, before Larry MacPhail. Every time he said "eight kids," Camilli corrected him, and every time he had to correct him you could see him get a little madder.

The next thing I knew I heard the usual MacPhail screaming followed by gurgling, choking sounds. I went running in and the first thing I noticed, being exceptionally observant, was that Camilli had both of his hands under MacPhail's chin and MacPhail's feet were a foot off the ground. Between gurgles, MacPhail was still screaming that he wasn't going to be held responsible for Camilli's indifference to the most elementary tenets of family planning.

Holy cats, I didn't know what to do. I was afraid that if I went after Camilli, Dolph would handle MacPhail with one hand and hoist me up with the other. I was also afraid that if I talked him into letting MacPhail down, Larry would start swinging. In addition to which, just between you and me, I didn't find the scene all that displeasing.

The outcome was that MacPhail refused to pay for the transportation of Camilli's "eight kids." Camilli refused to get into uniform and I spent the greater part of spring training trying to convince MacPhail that we weren't going to win any pennant with a guy named Bert Haas at first. Finally, MacPhail instructed me that I could tell Camilli he'd get his 500 bucks, but that if he ever found out the money was coming from him I was fired. "This is one argument I'm going to win," he said, pronouncing his final verdict.

Never mind that he had almost got himself a free tonsillectomy and was paying the 500 anyway. If he said he had won, he had won. That left me to convince Camilli that I was personally guaranteeing he'd get the money before the year was over—"Trust me, Dolph"—and by this time Camilli was so mad that he wanted MacPhail to come crawling to him on his hands and knees with the money in his mouth.

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