Young Durocher was a gifted fielder. He played the shortstop position. He was working at a factory when one of his co-workers persuaded him to pursue a career in baseball. The New York Yankees took note. His rise to a starting position with that storied ball club was amazingly quick.
Durocher savored the high life of nightclubs, gambling and fancy clothes. He was spending more money than he was earning. One of his teammates was the legendary slugger Babe Ruth. The young rookie became Ruth’s roommate on road trips.
Ruth was making a star’s salary. He began noticing thefts were taking place. Ruth marked some hundred dollar bills and used them as bait to lure the culprits. The next day he found the marked money and his watch in Durocher’s luggage.
Durocher didn’t last long with the Yankees. He soon found himself banished to the National League. He played briefly for the Cincinnati Reds. The owner of the Reds took Leo under his care. He helped him fix his money troubles. By the time the budding star was packed off to play for the St. Louis Cardinals he was an All-Star caliber player.
With the Brooklyn Dodgers Durocher began making the transition from star player to championship baseball manager. He could have been Jackie Robinson’s first major league manager during that historic year when Robinson broke through the major league’s color line. It wasn’t meant to be. Durocher became embroiled in scandal and was suspended for that season.
He went on to manage the New York Giants and became the mentor for another young star, the dazzling Willie Mays. By the time Durocher was managing the Chicago Cubs during the late 1960’s his magic touch was long gone. That team suffered through a monumental late season collapse.
Eventually he was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. He never knew about that last triumph. He had some stubborn enemies-they kept him out while he was living. Bitter and sweet, that was the life of Leo Durocher.