A Lifetime of Memories from Striking out the Babe to Teeing It up with the President
by Elden Auker
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I'm sure Durocher hoped his past would never come back to haunt him; but once you steal in a baseball clubhouse, you're branded for life. He's lucky he ever got back in the game at all. He should have kissed the ground Branch Rickey walked on. He didn't, of course. Instead, he used him the way he used everybody else.
Mr. and Mrs. Rickey were nice enough to have Durocher over for dinner at their house one evening. They also invited Mrs. Rickey's seamstress to the dinner. She had a very successful business and made lots of money, more money than a shaggy-ass shortstop, which was all Durocher was. We used to call him the leather man. Lotta mouth, lotta hustle, good field, and no hit. He was a .247 lifetime hitter with no pop in his bat, the classic all-field, no-hit shortstop. Rickey loved players like that, loaded his roster with them. Guys like Pepper Martin. The St. Louis club was always a running team, a hustling team. The Gashouse Gang, free and easy and loose. They were a good, fun-loving bunch of guys for the most part.
Anyway, Durocher wasn't making any money to speak of, maybe $5,000. Mr. Rickey was tight with the buck. Mrs. Rickey's dressmaker, about 10 years Leo's senior, made a much better living. Leo ended up marrying her.
When Mr. Rickey left St. Louis and went to the Brooklyn Dodgers, he took Durocher with him and made him his player/manager. Durocher made the headlines, became a big star, and got rid of his wife, divorcing the woman who all but kept him before he made it big. He went Hollywood and started dating all the starlets.
While Durocher was with the Dodgers he would spend his winters in Hollywood, living with his best friend and his best friend's wife, Lorraine Day. Durocher's penchant for stealing surfaced again, and this time he didn't stop at a gold pocket watch or cash. This time, he stole his best friend's wife.
Durocher's cheating ways finally caught up to him and led to him getting suspended by baseball's commissioner, Happy Chandler. Durocher and the well-known actor George Raft had a suite of rooms in the New Yorker hotel where all the ballclubs stayed. George Raft: now there was a real rat, a real lowlife. He and Durocher were the best of friends. They set up a gambling house in the suite, used a bunch of loaded dice and marked cards, and served free drinks. Dizzy Trout, a right-handed pitcher who replaced me in the Tigers' rotation when I went to the Red Sox, lost about $7,000 gambling there, virtually all the money he had. He was cheated out of it by Raft and Durocher.
Chandler launched an investigation, suspended Durocher for a year, and closed up the gambling joint. He should have kicked Durocher out for life.
From Sleeper Cars and Flannel Uniforms by Elden Auker with Tom Keegan.
Copyright © 2001 by Elden Auker and Tom Keegan. Used by permission.