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Leo Durocher's Death

Leo Durocher

The life and death of Leo Durocher:

He was without a doubt one of the most provocative, cantankerous and controversial figures to ever step onto a baseball field. His nicknames included “Leo The Lip”, “Lippy” and not only did he get under umpires’ and opponents’ skin…

Leo Durocher arguing with umpire Leo Durocher fist fight

…as a player for several successful teams, he also became famous as a manager and went on to baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Leo Ernest Durocher was born in West Springfield, Massachusetts, the youngest of four boys born to a French-Canadian couple. He became a well-known semi-pro athlete and after minor league stints in Hartford, Atlanta and Minnesota…

Leo Durocher, Saint Paul Saints

…he got his major league start in baseball playing shortstop and second base for the New York Yankees in 1928.

Leo Durocher, Yankees

He was with the Yanks for just a couple of games in 1925 before going back to the minors for more seasoning. Then, he rejoined the Yankees in 1928…

Leo Durocher with Babe Ruth

…in the heyday of Babe Ruth, who called him “The All American Out.” Leo was the first Yankee to wear the number seven, that was eventually retired for Mickey Mantle.

But Leo was always in some kind of mess with the Yankee brass – like passing bum checks - and was traded to the Cincinnati Reds where he played for three seasons until he joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 1933…

Leo Durocher, Cardinals

…where he played shortstop with the championship teams known as the “Gashouse Gang” of the 1930s.

Leo Durocher with the Gashouse Gang

After making his mark there, he moved on to the Brooklyn Dodgers, as an infielder, player-manager and full-time manager.

Leo Durocher managing the Dodgers

He brought the Dodgers to the National League pennant in 1941 but lost the World Series to the Yankees. During the World War II years, Durocher led Brooklyn until 1947 -- when he was suspended for the season by Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, for conduct that baseball frowned upon – like his connection to bookmakers, gamblers and mobsters.

newspaper report of Leo Durocher banned from mlb for 1947

Leo had a reputation of playing fast and loose with gamblers and liked living the high life with actor George Raft and Frank Sinatra.

Leo Durocher with George Raft Leo Durocher with Frank Sinatra

He was also running around with an actress he eventually made his fourth wife, Laraine Day.

Leo Durocher with Laraine Day

The 1947 season which was the rookie year of the legendary Jackie Robinson

Leo Durocher with Jackie Robinson

…but he and Robinson never really got along much after that initial meeting.

Leo Durocher on cover of TIME Magazine

When his suspension ended, Durocher did the unthinkable, moving across town to be the skipper of the arch-rival New York Giants and it was there a 1951 that he led the Giants from several games behind to the National League pennant. He was coaching at third base when Bobby Thompson hit is legendary “Shot Heard Round the World”, off Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca.

There were rumors that the Giants were stealing signs that season, but Leo was a hero to a rookie outfielder named Willie Mays…

Leo Durocher with Willie Mays

…and gave Mays much-needed confidence in his early days as a Giants’ outfielder. “Mr. Leo” is what Mays called his manager and in 1954 when Willie returned from the service, he helped lead the team to the 1954 World Series victory sweep over the Cleveland Indians.

But Durocher didn't stay with the Giants long (leaving after the 1955 season) and when the Dodgers moved out to the West Coast, he became one of the coaches under Walter Alston from 1961-1964.

Leo Durocher with the Dodgers, early 1960's

Hollywood suited Leo's personality very nicely and in the 1960’s and he had guest roles on several TV shows, like “The Munster’s” …

Leo Durocher on The Munster’s

…and “The Beverly Hillbillies”.

He moved on to Chicago to manage the Cubs in 1966…

Leo Durocher with the Cubs

…and with a team stocked with several Hall of Fame players, including Ernie Banks Billy Williams and Ron Santo, he almost got them to the World Series in 1969, save for the even-bigger Miracle New York Mets.

Leo's last blast as a manager was with the Houston Astros from 1972-73

Leo Durocher managing the Astros

Throughout his career, he was known as a very provocative personality, a bench jockey of the highest order, and a lover of the fast life. He was also well known for some famous quips like:

Leo Durocher, show me a good loser and i'll show you an idiot Leo Durocher, stick a fork in him. he's done. Leo Durocher, as long as i have a chance to beat you, i am going to take it!. Leo Durocher, nice guys finish last.

He also some very controversial views on how to treat a woman on a first date, in words and deeds that are unacceptable today.

Whatever you think of his image or public persona, he’s a baseball legend, with a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

Leo Durocher hall of fame plaque

He never lived to see it, though. He was inducted posthumously in 1994. His 2009 victories as a manger put him tenth in all-time career wins.

Leo co-authored his own story in “Nice Guys Finish Last” …

Leo Durocher, Nice Guys Finish Last book cover

…and after it was published in 1984 he was interviewed about some of the other legends in the Hall.

He died of natural causes in Palm Springs, California in 1991 at the age of 86.

Leo Durocher grave

The Lip is buried in Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.