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IN THE LAND OF THE GIANTS
Leo Durocher
April 21, 1975
Durocher bears witness to miracles at Coogan's Bluff: Bobby Thomson, Willie Mays, Dusty Rhodes
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April 21, 1975

In The Land Of The Giants

Durocher bears witness to miracles at Coogan's Bluff: Bobby Thomson, Willie Mays, Dusty Rhodes

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It had been all bits and pieces for me. All I could remember when I tried to fit the picture together was a series of flash images, surrounded by empty spaces. I could see myself doing a couple of somersaults out of sheer exuberance. I could remember running over to my wife Laraine's box and kissing her. The next thing I could remember I was in the middle of a mob scene out in center field being attacked. Some 250-pounder had clamped headlock on me and forced me down to one knee, and I was fighting for breath. I was sure that a crazed Brooklyn fan was trying to kill me—not the ecstatic Giant fan it was—joined by other Brooklyn fans who were whacking me in the back and short ribs as they came galloping past. By the time two policemen tore him away from me he had cut my wind off. I couldn't breathe. And then I was being pushed and carried up the clubhouse stairs, gasping for breath every step of the way. Through the entire victory celebration, which must have lasted three hours, my throat was so raw I couldn't talk above a whisper, a hell of a spot for me to be in at a time like that.

More than anything else, however, it was the vivid memory I had of kissing Laraine that showed me what a mysterious thing the mind can be. Laraine told me, "You didn't. You never came near the box."

"I did," I said. "I know I did. What's the matter with you? Are you trying to tell me I'm crazy or something?"

Maybe three or four nights later, we caught the pictures of it on television. And I never went near the box. The camera caught Eddie Stanky leaping up my back like a monkey on a stick. (That accounted for the flip-flops. I would have sworn I'd done them on my own.) The camera moved to home plate to pick up the players mobbing Thomson, and when I came into sight again I was standing on the pitcher's mound, having my cap stolen, and trying to get to Thomson, as the whole mob, myself included, moved out toward the clubhouse in center field.

That was "The Miracle of Coogan's Bluff," and after it was over I was being acclaimed as all the great managers rolled into one. I'll show you what a genius I was. The team caught fire after I moved Whitey Lockman to first base, where he had never played before, and Bobby Thomson, who had lost his regular spot in center to Willie Mays, to third base. Brilliant moves, right? Let me ask you something. If I was such a genius, why didn't I do it earlier? The truth is that I almost blew the pennant by waiting too long before I made those brilliant moves out of sheer inspiration.

Sal Maglie won 23 games for us. I had taken Sal out of the bullpen a year earlier and made him a starting pitcher, right? Well, not exactly. Sal had come back to the Giants organization after he had jumped to the Mexican League—he played two seasons for the Puebla team—and I was shoveling for pitchers in spring training when Frank Shellenback, my pitching coach, told me that Maglie might make a very fine relief pitcher for us. I'll play an elephant if he can do the job, so why shouldn't I play a jumper?

But I was the genius who saw what a great starter he would make, wasn't I? Sure I was. The season was more than half over when I found myself stuck for a pitcher in St. Louis. So I threw Maglie in, and from that day on he was the best pitcher in the league.

It does your reputation no great harm to have Willie Mays on your side, either. I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it again: Players make the manager.

What can I say about Willie Mays after I say he's the greatest player any of us has ever seen? Well, I can say plenty. From the first moment I saw Willie, he was my boy. After all the fathers I'd had watching over me in my own career, I had finally got me a son. Before you can begin to appreciate Willie Mays I have to give you some idea of what he did for the Giants, not only on the field but in the clubhouse, on the bus, in the plane, in the hotel lobby.

Willie was not only the star of the team, he was everybody's pet. He'd take out his pocketbook in the bus and, in his high, piping voice, he'd say, "Man, I'm empty." Then he'd hand it to the guy behind him and say, "Boys, put a little somp'n in." Well, they'd spit in it and put cigarette butts in it and by the time it came back around to him there'd be three pennies and an indescribable mess. Willie would look in happily, and with that big sunny smile of his he'd say, "Every little bit helps."

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