Thursday, August 5, 2010

Leo Durocher Finishes Where!?

I recently learned from an English correspondent that Leo Durocher’s most famous quote, “Nice guys finish last,” has made it across the Atlantic.

I know the full story of that quote, and it’s pretty interesting. Before WWII, Durocher was managing the Brooklyn Dodgers and when famed radio sports announcer Red Barber commented about Durocher’s abrasive personality, Durocher pointed across the field to the dugout of the Dodger’s rivals, the New York Giants. He commented about his opposite number Mel Ott, “Has anybody ever seen a nicer guy than Mel Ott? But look at where they are, in 7th place. That’s where nice guys wind up, in 7th place.” Since the American League only had eight teams, they were very close to last place, so that’s how Durocher’s comment was remembered.

Leo Durocher cultivated a reputation as being a complete SOB, an evaluation with which opposing teams, just about every big league umpire (Leo "the Lip" Durocher managed to get thrown out of the game on 95 different occasions, which still places him in the top ten all time) and of course all three of Durocher’s ex-wives would emphatically agree. However, Durocher also deserves to be remembered for his words as Dodger manager. In 1946 when Jackie Robinson joined the team, he informed his players, “I don’t care if that guy is white, black, purple, or has stripes like a zebra. If he can play, he’s on the team.” Soon thereafter, Durocher was fired by the Dodgers and took the same position with his erstwhile rivals the New York Giants. In later years, Jackie Robinson commented that while he and Durocher had traded insults on any number of occasions, Durocher never made a single racial comment (not even one).

Durocher’s axiom of nice guys finish last ultimately came back to bite him in the derriere in a way that he never would have suspected. Towards the end of his career, Durocher did a stint managing the Chicago Cubs and, to his chagrin, the Cubbies wound up in last place, whereupon all kinds of people enjoyed taunting him with “Hey Leo! Way to show what a nice guy you are!”

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