Haney arrived the next morning, and he and Leo went over the players Haney would have to choose from to stock his club. Finally, just before he left, he said, "Leo, I'm sorry, but I've already picked my manager."
"I said, 'Fine, Fred. You're the general manager, and you have the right to pick anyone you choose.' Then, just as he was getting on the elevator, he said, 'The reporters will be around, and I'll tell them we had a conference and you didn't want the job.' The elevator doors closed before I could say anything, and I went back to my apartment and looked at the four walls and the ceiling, and I thought, 'What the hell is this?' "
Durocher's friends were stunned by the stories that Leo had turned down the Angel job until Durocher denied it, hotly. "There were lots of jobs open about that time," Leo said angrily. "I got no calls. Everybody figured I had priced myself out of the market. I asked Haney about it, and he said he thought he was letting me off the hook. Hell, he was letting himself off the hook, not me."
Leo's connection with the Dodgers came about through a chance encounter with Walter O'Malley in a small restaurant in Los Angeles called Dominick's.
"I was going there with some friends for dinner," said O'Malley. "We had an argument with another party about a parking place in front of the cafe and then, to save trouble, we let the other party have it. They came in and sat near us, and in a little while Leo joined them. He saw me and came over to say hello and ask me if he was really blackballed in baseball. I told him he wasn't. Then he said he would even take a job as a coach if it was with the right club. So the next day I got Bavasi to talk to him, and we hired him."
"O'Malley and Bavasi couldn't have been better to me," Durocher said. "When they offered me a contract I said the money doesn't matter. Just put the contract down, and I'll sign it. Well, some of the papers have said I'm getting $17,500, but that's not even close. I can't tell you any more than that without naming a figure, but that's not even close."
Durocher and the Dodgers are both happy with the deal. Durocher handles players easily and authoritatively, and he gets along well with Manager Walt Alston.
"Leo's forte has always been getting the most out of his players," Bavasi said one afternoon, watching Leo work. "He's a better manager than half the managers in the league right now. We won't have him more than a year. He'll be managing a club next season."
"I'm happy with the Dodgers," Leo said. "It would take a hell of a deal to make me leave. Los Angeles is my home, and I like it."