Richards: The polarizing, scrappy Leo ‘The Lip’ Durocher

From Lawrence Richards at The National Pastime Museum on September 13, 2017:

In his baseball career spanning almost 50 years, Leo Durocher didn’t always walk the walk, but there isn’t a scintilla of doubt that he could talk the talk. A small, slick-fielding shortstop, he broke in with the Yankees in 1925 for two at-bats and a cup of coffee. He spent the next few years in the minors before joining Murderers Row in 1928. His fiery personality, scrappy play, and bench­jockeying prowess compensated for his light hitting. Babe Ruth is credited with giving him the punishing moniker “The All-American Out.” Ruth also accused Durocher of stealing his watch.

Leo’s combativeness, blatant self-promotion, and clashes with authority on every level are succinctly summed up by his famous creed, “Nice guys finish last.” Leo, to put it mildly, though there was nothing mild about him, never lacked confidence in his judgment: “Baseball is like a church. Many attend, few understand.” To punctuate the “Durocher Philosophy,” the first chapter in Leo’s autobiography is titled, I Come to Kill You. For him, baseball wasn’t a game, it was guerilla warfare with no holds barred, the art of intimidation. I think we get it.

Nonetheless, his tumultuous baseball life could be considered benign compared to his beyond-stormy, raucous personal life. He had multiple serious legal problems; divorced four times; gambled excessively; knew many mobsters thru close friend and actor George Raft; was suspended the entire 1947 season for “conduct detrimental to baseball”; fought with teammates, other players, umpires, and fans; was a world-class womanizer; and feuded with owners, executives, and members of the press. If nothing else, Leo was consistent.

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Originally published: September 13, 2017. Last Updated: September 13, 2017.