Bill Rigney had been Leo Durocher's heir apparent since 1954 when he ended his quiet major league career (eight years of journeyman in-fielding for the New York Giants; a .259 lifetime average) to become the manager of the minor league Minneapolis Millers. The fine job he did there this year strengthened the feeling that he would be the one to succeed Leo.
Despite travail and frustration that might have felled a lesser man, he led his team through a spectacular season. He got them off to a fast start and took a firm grip on first place. But the parent Giants, off to a slow start, took a firm grip on some of Rigney's best players and brought them up to reinforce New York's roster. Injuries compounded the felony and the Millers tripped, stumbled and fell to fifth place in mid-season. Then the Giants gave Rigney Monte Irvin. The Millers rallied round, ran off 15 straight to move back to first place and raced on to win the pennant by eight full games and swept past the postseason playoffs and into the Little World Series.
This success, coupled with the widely held belief that Durocher was through, fed the rumors, but not even Rigney knew that this time rumor was fact until Horace Stoneham called Saturday.
"Bill," said Stoneham, "Leo is retiring from baseball. We'd like you to take his place as manager of the Giants. Do you want to be manager?"
"I don't remember what I said," Rigney laughed later, "but I guess I said yes, because I got the job."
At the Polo Grounds the mood was not one of mourning, nor did Leo Durocher seem to want it so. He was chipper and bright on this, his last day in the major leagues.
He spent some time talking to his coaches, Fred Fitzsimmons and Herman Franks. He asked Eddie Logan, the clubhouse man, to pack certain pictures he wanted to keep. He posed for photographers, sitting at the desk in his office. "No, boys," he said at one point. "Take all the pictures you want but none of that cleaning out the desk stuff. No phony poses."
Outside the office half a hundred hangers-on stood talking together in a sort of subdued hubbub, as before a curtain rises.
The curtain rose. The door to the clubhouse opened and Leo Durocher walked down the steps onto the far reaches of center field and began the long walk in across the grass to the New York Giant dugout. There were not many people in the stands on this last Sunday in September but those who were there applauded as Durocher walked the length of the Polo Grounds.