Just a few feetfrom the small bar in Leo Durocher's magnificent $200,000 home overlooking thecity of Los Angeles sits a small stuffed lion with a drawstring hanging fromits throat. Pull the string, and the lion roars, "I love children," or"I'm king of the jungle," or "I'll protect you." Ask Durocher,now 59, where the lion came from and what it represents, and he will lower hishonking voice and say, "Frank Sinatra gave it to me and, even though a lotof people call me Leo the Lip and a lot of other people call me a lot of otherthings, it represents me—Leo the Lion. The Brat put that name on me back in1951, the year of the Miracle Giants."
Eddie Stanky, TheBrat himself, now 48, remembers about Durocher's nickname, and his own, too."I used to go to a lot of movies in those days," he says. "At thebeginning of every Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer picture this lion had its great bigmouth open making noise. It reminded me of Leo, so I started calling him Leothe Lion. The Brat? I got that in 1945 as a term of affection when EddieMurphy, a sportswriter for the New York Sun, wrote, 'Eddie Stanky, the bratfrom Kensington, Pennsylvania....' It stuck, but not always as a term ofaffection. People have had trouble believing I am anything but a brat. Iremember sitting one night with my wife Dickie and some of her friends when oneof the girls said, 'But Dickie, he's not at all like I thought he would be—abrat.' Dickie said, 'What did you think I married, some kind of a ragpicker?'"
This week, asbaseball spring training begins, Durocher and Stanky (see cover) are bothreturning as major league managers after absences of 10 years. Durocher willhandle (some hope even occasionally manhandle) the long-moribund Chicago Cubs,who have not finished in the National League's first division since 1946. This,athletically speaking, was an eon ago, back when Assault was winning the TripleCrown, Joe Louis had three championship years left and Bobby Layne and CharlieConerly were college boys. Stanky, on the other hand, takes over the ChicagoWhite Sox, a team that has not been out of the American League's first divisionsince 1950.
The idea of havingDurocher on the North Side and Stanky on the South Side has Chicagoansanticipating a season filled with controversy, daring, brawls and intrigue.Each comes in with a three-year contract at a time when no other big-leaguemanager is guaranteed employment for longer than two years. Judging by thebehavior of the Chicago news media, the two have become the biggest story sinceAl Capone was giving the hit-and-run signs on Rush Street. In a period of oneweek this winter Durocher and Stanky made more than 200 radio and televisiontapes, their contribution to the furor that has stimulated both controversy andticket sales. The Cubs' season-ticket program is up over 35%, and the White Soxalready have banked more than $1 million. Sox group-ticket sales are up 30%,and the preseason demand for their tickets is higher than it was in 1960, whichwas the year after they won the American League pennant.
February 28, 1966
The schedules ofboth the National and American leagues cannot help but expose both Durocher andStanky under the best of promotional conditions. The Cubs open the season with12 consecutive games against the two teams most strongly tied to Durocher'smanaging history, the Giants and Dodgers. The Sox begin at home, then go toAnaheim, Calif. to help the Angels open the new $24 million stadium there. Bythe middle of May they will have visited eight of the league's cities, haveplayed a weekend series at home against the Detroit Tigers—traditionally one ofthe best gate attractions in Chicago—and two home games against theleague-champion Minnesota Twins.
By the timeDurocher begins working with the Cubs in their new spring training location inLong Beach, Calif. and Stanky has gotten acquainted with the Sox in theirSarasota, Fla. camp, many may wrongly assume that a great attendance war isahead. But for that to happen the Cubs would have to get off to a tremendousstart, because the Sox have outdrawn the Cubs by more than two million in thelast five years. The interest that the new managers arouse is the big thing,however. If both teams play well all Chicago attendance records couldconceivably fall, and all baseball will benefit. According to Bill Veeck,incontestably an expert on what Chicago will pay to see, the possibilities arelimitless. "I figure," he says, "that having Durocher and Stankymanaging again almost balances baseball's loss of Casey Stengel. Having themmanage in the same city is a very interesting situation, especially when thatcity is Chicago. If they had been hired to manage in New York, so what? NewYork would just have taken each one in stride. The only other place with twoclubs is Los Angeles, and it has no identity.
"But Chicagois like the lions in front of the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue—they've beenout in the weather so long they've been softened by time. Chicago does not havethe lacquer, or veneer, or pseudosophistication of New York. But it has motion.The whole town can get excited. The night after we clinched the 1959 pennant inCleveland [Veeck owned the White Sox from late 1958 until mid-1961] policeestimated there were between 300,000 and 400,000 people out to meet us atMidway Airport. Can you imagine that much excitement anywhere else?
"Chicago hasalways been essentially a Cub town. It is divided north and south by MadisonStreet, and the income division roughly coincides with the geographical. TheCubs draw their strength from the wealthier areas on the North Side but, in away, this is a curse. A Sox fan does not have to decide whether to go to thegame or take his yacht out. If the Cubs do well Chicago might be a pretty goodplace this summer to buy a yacht cheap. A Sox fan is a baseball fan,period."
It obviously wasno economic necessity that moved Durocher to come to the Cubs. Radio andtelevision have made him a man of means. But economics was one of the reasonsthe Cubs wanted Leo. Before hiring Leo at a salary publicly estimated at$45,000 a year, but which probably is much higher than that, Owner Phil Wrigleyhad been employing a scheme of his own devising, a rotating-coach system. Underthis plan, a group of men—as many as four in 1961—took over the Cubs forvarious periods of time, then rotated back to the minor leagues to superviseyoung talent on the farms. The players held slight respect for the coaches,because they resembled little more than so many Maypole dancers skipping aroundWrigley. Nobody was ever in complete authority or willing to takeresponsibility. Ron Santo, the excellent third baseman who batted in 101 runslast season, was one of the first Cubs to openly endorse the junking of therotating-coach plan and the arrival of Durocher. "He'll bring backconfidence and the winning habit in the Cubs," said Santo. "He"llrestore hustle and drive, and restore respect for us by other teams. Having therespect of the opposition may be the most important thing of all. I'll swear, Ihave felt during the past few years that opposing teams were so eager to playus that they'd come to town a day early. If the other team has that muchconfidence, it has it half made before it even gets on the field."
Over the past twoseasons, when National League attendance was the highest in its history, crowdsat Wrigley Field dropped 35%. In 1965 the Cubs lost 51,237,015 on theirbaseball operations, although their overall losses were reduced to $311,197because of increased revenues from television, maintaining their ownconcessions and renting their stadium to the Chicago Bears of the NationalFootball League. Had it not been for the lame-duck situation in Milwaukee, theCubs would have finished last in league attendance, with 641,361. As it was,they were able to outdraw the off-to-Atlanta Braves by only 86,000.
Wrigley, unlikesome baseball owners, is not a greedy man but one with eccentricities, the twomost notable being refusal to yield to night baseball and a fondness for comingto the games in his own park and sitting unnoticed in the bleachers."Wrigley," says Veeck, "is not the kind of man who cares aboutprofit. He does not care if the Cubs make any money. It's like the way he runsthe Wrigley Building Restaurant, which is one of the best places to eat inChicago. The restaurant has a great bar business, which alone could make it avery lucrative operation. But it shows only a nominal profit. You can go intothe Wrigley Building Restaurant and buy a sturgeon sandwich maybe cheaper thananywhere else in town. Wrigley puts a lot of money into improved services andless-expensive food. But he would be very unhappy if he ever lost a dollar—forwhich I can't blame him."
Cubbie fans, asthey call themselves, are divided into two groups. The first consists of solidfollowers, who have been openly disgusted at some of the recent trades made bythe team which have resulted in the traded Cubs performing better in differentuniforms. (Lou Brock for the Cardinals and Smoky Burgess of the White Sox forexample.) They relish the idea of Durocher taking over. The second group ismade up, more or less, of quasi-intellectuals, who talk a lot about the teambut see it play only occasionally. They look upon Durocher as the Black Knightcome to sully the image of the delicate Cubbies.
Wrigley himself isvery plain about why he hired Durocher. "Losses at the gate don't worryme," he said recently, "but losses on the field do, and that's why wegot Durocher. I felt that the team just wasn't putting out. The reason Iarrived at that conclusion was that whenever we traded players away they seemedto become stars somewhere else. Maybe we were just too good to them. I decidedthat what we needed was somebody with the drive, the toughness and theleadership of Durocher to get their best out of them. Somebody to wake themup."
Leo Durocher wasnamed manager of the Cubs through a bizarre sequence of circumstances thatbegan on the evening of September 18 in Milwaukee. Durocher was having dinnerwith his close friend Herman Franks, the manager of the San Francisco Giants.Franks is one of 10 current major league managers who have either played orcoached under Leo. (The others: Stanky, Gene Mauch of the Phils, Wes Westrum ofthe Mets, Bobby Bragan of the Braves. Billy Herman of the Red Sox, Alvin Darkof the A's, Charley Dressen of the Tigers, Bill Rigney of the Angels and GilHodges of the Senators.) While at times there may be arguments between Durocherand some of them, these are always short-lived because they all admit that theylearned a lot of baseball while sitting at Leo's heels.
Franks andDurocher had a couple of drinks and were talking over the day's game, one thatFranks had managed and Durocher had announced for ABC-TV. Finally, Franks said,"Leo, you ought to be back managing. Sure, sure, I know, you got money andyou think you're happy, but you belong managing." Then, according to Leo,the rest of the conversation went something like:
Durocher: Herman,there's nothing I'm interested in. I'm doing pretty good with my radio and TV.Pulling down pretty good money.
Franks: Leo, youought to be managing the Chicago Cubs. That's your kind of team. Did you everthink about managing the Cubs? Maybe I could help you out if you'd beinterested.
Durocher: Yeah,yeah, Whale Belly, Durocher managing the Cubs. You must be going off yourrocker. Nobody has asked me.
Franks: Leo, I'llcall John Holland [vice-president of the Cubs] right now. He's a friend of mineand he is a pretty good guy.
Durocher: Sure,Herman, you do that.
To Leo's surprise.Herman did, while Durocher sat at the table. Franks came back and told Durocherthat Holland would be in touch with him shortly. Durocher did not know whetherFranks was joking or not.
"Everyonethinks that I have had a lot of offers to manage teams in the 10 years that Ihave not been managing," Leo said recently. "Sure there have beenoffers, and some of them were pretty good ones, too. But not as many as peoplethink. Both Larry and Lee MacPhail offered me the job as manager of theBaltimore Orioles before Hank Bauer got it. In 1959 Frank Lane and Nate Dolinin Cleveland wanted to replace Joe Gordon and made me an excellent offer. Wetalked in terms of a three-year contract and a big expense account and somestock. But I was making $105,000 a year from NBC, so I decided against it. Iliked living in California, I enjoyed what I was doing in television, and didnot really like the idea of moving to Cleveland.
"One dayCharlie Finley called me up from Kansas City and asked me if I could come outthere and manage that night against the Yankees. I was coaching for the Dodgersthen, and they were paying me pretty good dough. And what the hell was I goingto do in Kansas City? He called me back, and I said, 'Mr. Finley, if I want asteak I can get it right here—I don't have to go to Kansas City.'
"In 1964, onthe Dodgers' last trip to St. Louis, Gussie Busch offered me the Cardinal job.The club was going bad, and he was thinking about replacing Johnny Keane. Itwas the end of August, and I was having dinner with some friends at theWestwood Country Club when I got a phone call asking me if I could go out tosee Gussie at his place, Grant's Farm. Harry Caray, the Cardinal announcer,picked me up two blocks from the Chase Hotel, where the team stayed, and wewent out to see Gussie. I've known Gussie for a long time, and I like him. Hesaid, 'Leo, do you want to manage my club?' And I said yes. Then I kidded himand said he was tampering if he hadn't talked to Buzzie Bavasi or WalterO'Malley. Gus said, 'What about money? What about $25,000 or $35,000?' I said,'Gus, that's a pretty good starting point, but only a starting point.' We had ahandshake on it, and 3½ weeks later I resigned as a coach with the Dodgers.
"Everyoneknows what happened after that. The Cards won the pennant and Gussie lookedbad, so he tried to rehire Keane. Johnny told him no, and quit. I knew Icouldn't go into that situation. Keane had won the pennant and the WorldSeries. Anyway, Gussie never called me back. If he had I would have said, 'Gus,you can forget the handshake.' Finally I called him and said, 'Gus, are youtrying to tell me something?' Later one of his guys came out to Los Angeles andasked me if I would like to be a coach under Red Schoendienst, who had beennamed as manager. I said, 'No way.' There are lots of people who will tell youthat I was offered the Met job a couple of times. This is absolutely not true.May I die now if I was."
One week followingthe dinner with Franks in Milwaukee, Durocher went to San Francisco tobroadcast another game. Franks saw him there and told him that Holland wasgoing to contact him, and Durocher now felt that the matter was no longer ajoke. Holland eventually called Leo during the World Series, and the deal wasagreed upon at a meeting in Durocher's home in L.A.
The announcementof Durocher's signing specifically mentioned that he had been hired without atitle. At his first Chicago press conference, Durocher was asked if he were thehead coach. "I'll clarify that right now," he said. "I'm not thehead coach. No two men can run a club. It's tough enough for one man. Let meput it this way: I'm the manager. I'm the one that will have thecoaches."
This was grand anddaring, but Leo himself knew that there might be one thing wrong with it. Hehad not met Mr. Wrigley yet, the Mr. Wrigley who had given the Cubs theirmultiple-coach, no-manager system. That evening Durocher had a few people up tohis suite for drinks, and among them were Mr. and Mrs. John Holland. Durocherwas beginning to worry about how Wrigley would take to the idea of being toldon television that Leo had taken over. The phone rang, and Durocher answeredit. The call was from Wrigley, who wanted to speak to Holland. Leo says nowthat he remembers walking over into the corner and thinking to himself that thewhole thing was about to go up in smoke, that Leo had lipped before he looked.Holland called Durocher to the phone and told him that the owner wished tospeak to him. "Hello Mr. Wrigley," said Durocher, "I hope youhaven't been watching me shoot my mouth off on television and think that I havecome here to take over everything." Wrigley laughed. "That's why Iwasn't at the press conference, Leo," he said. "I wanted you to dothat—to take charge."
The hiring ofStanky by the White Sox may not seem as dramatic as Durocher's arrival with theCubs, but the Sox situation is totally different. When Al Lopez, theirrespected manager for the past nine seasons, retired last fall to enjoy lifemore as a vice-president of the club, the Sox needed a tactician. No one hasever been able to gauge just how many games a manager wins for a team in thecourse of a year, but Lopez won more than his share by skillfully manipulatinga team that had superior pitching, no hitting and not much defense. In 1964 theSox won 98 games and lost the pennant by one game. There were times when itlooked like they would lose nothing to minus one. Their pitching last year wasnot up to what it was in 1964, and seven of their best players had bad seasons,including three of their top pitchers from 1964. But the White Sox still won 95games. Tactics with a team like this mean a lot.
After Lopezretired the Sox tried to get Mayo Smith, the superscout from the Yankees, tomanage. When that fell through their problem was so severe that they went tothe baseball winter meeting without a manager. The Chicago press, gleeful atalready having Durocher, began to chide the Sox about finding somebody lively.But who?
Everyone inbaseball assumed that Eddie Stanky, who had been fired by the Cardinals in1955, no longer cared to manage in the major leagues. Stanky had never saidthis, though he had quietly turned down five major league offers. "I do notfeel," he said recently, "that it is the correct thing to say who hasoffered you jobs, because it has to serve as a reflection on someone else whogot the job later. I know that I was probably not the first choice of the WhiteSox, but it doesn't bother me."
Last fall Stanky,who for the past five years has been in charge of minor league operations forthe St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets, put a uniform on to manage the Metteam in the Florida Instructional League. Early in December the White Sox askedpermission from Bing Devine, the assistant general manager of the Mets, tospeak to Stanky about managing. Devine gave the permission. After five flightsin two days on a pair of rented Lear jets, White Sox Owner Arthur Allyn,General Manager Ed Short and Lopez were all finally able to get together withStanky in Tampa. A day later The Brat was the new manager of the White Sox.
There is one Hallof Fame in Coopers-town, N.Y., but sooner or later someone had better build asecond one at Gussie Busch's Grant's Farm, because things sure happen there. Itwas there that Stanky was fired after managing the Cardinals for three and ahalf years. "I remember quite well how it went," Eddie says now."It was six days before Dickie and the children were to come up from Mobileto St. Louis for the summer. I phoned Dickie and told her to hold off because Ihad this sixth sense that something was about to happen. There was a differencein the sound of some people's voices. Some weren't even saying hello to me inthe same tone of voice. I was called to Grant's Farm, and Mr. Busch and Mr.Anheuser were there. I was told that I was being released because of the fans.I remember that I ended up hugging both of them and got the feeling that theyliked me but that conditions were not right. I considered myself a successfulmanager in St. Louis.
"The next yearI went to manage Minneapolis and lost the Little World Series playoffs in theseventh game. After that game I called Dickie and said, 'I'm not going tomanage in the minor leagues again.' I wanted to be closer to my family, to seemy children grow up and to enjoy them. I felt then that I would come back whenI was older."
Stanky was astormy manager in St. Louis. At times he had trouble with the press, his owncoaches and the fans, as well as the opposition. When he ordered overweightplayers to stop eating potatoes he was bombed with protests frompotato-growers. "Are you trying to ruin us?" they asked him. Stankyreplied, "I've got enough to worry about without bothering about yourpotatoes."
No matter whodisliked Stanky then, or for what reasons, almost everyone admitted that he wasa superb tactician. In his book Stan Musial writes, "Eddie was probably thesharpest, tactically, of the eight men I played for in the big leagues."The former catcher Hal Smith, who did not play under Stanky but did work forhim when Eddie was a minor league director, says, "I learned more baseballfrom Eddie in a few weeks than I learned during all the rest of my playingcareer."
Taking over theWhite Sox will not be an easy job for Stanky because he will constantly becompared to Lopez, but Stanky realizes this. "Al Lopez," Stanky says,"has carried the ball to the goal line many times, and now he's handed itto me to score. I know that people will compare me with Lopez, maybe even downto the way we dress and the cars we drive, but they can't compare me to him inmoney—he wins. People always compare, but that's life." It has also beensuggested that Stanky has mellowed during his 10-year absence from big-leaguemanaging. "I don't like the word mellow," he says. "It reminds meof a piece of fruit that's gone soft."
Mellow or not,Stanky has long been recognized as an excellent developer of young ballplayers,and the White Sox have a lot of good young ones to work with, including, asusual, pitchers aplenty. "Baseball," Stanky says, "is now pitching.Pitching is so refined today that oldtimers have trouble believing it. The eraof the strong, wild kid is gone. Pitching instruction is so complete now that akid knows almost everything he's doing, down to the last possible degree. TheWhite Sox have pitching, and this I like.
"The twothings I do not like and will not stand are signs being missed and fatballplayers. Ballplayers have to follow the rules of the manager. There aresome strange things happening in baseball today. Guys who should only hit twohome runs a year spend most of the season trying to hit 12, and then they holdout until April 1. You should remember that baseball statistics can bemisleading. I hit .300 twice in my life, but the year I got on base 300 timeswas my best year because it helped the club win a pennant. The entire countryis power crazy now. Everyone wants a faster car with more horsepower. When aman hits a home run the scoreboard explodes. [Thanks in part to Mr. Veeck, whobuilt a wondrous pyrotechnic scoreboard for the White Sox.] It doesn't explodewhen a man steals a base, does it? I am not against a home run, but I do notwant to see a guy waste my summer trying to hit 12 of them.
"I believe ina close relationship with my players, if they want it that way. But I willinsist that they give me everything they have. I do not like this nonsensewhere the player says, 'I don't want to play doubleheaders,' or, 'I'm tired.'They have days off, and they should rest on the days off. They should rest inthe winter, but when they come to spring training they are mine and they shouldbe ready. They should be ready before they get there.
"Alreadypeople are asking me how many games I am going to get thrown out of, as if itis some kind of joke. It is not a joke with me. I'm not a Jackie Gleason. Toput a yardstick on how many games I will be put out of is nonsense. I'm notworried about my emotional outbursts. My facial expressions often belie myfeelings. I am a happy man. I may have weaknesses as a man, but I don't panicas a manager. When we were both in Chicago back in January and stopping at theLaSalle Hotel I called Leo. 'Eddie,' he said, 'don't worry about a thing. Thistown is big enough for both of us.'
"I guess Ialways thought Leo was responsible when I was traded away from Brooklyn toBoston back in 1948. There had been a disagreement. I was holding out for moremoney with the Dodgers, and Durocher, as manager, said, 'I can understand someother guys holding out, but Stanky?' I thought he was stabbing me in the back,and I said so. In late 1949 Leo, who was now managing the Giants, got me backin a trade with Boston. Everyone was waiting for the explosion. I remember ourfirst infield drill at spring training. Leo was hitting grounders to us andmaking all that noise like he does, challenging you and trying to get you tomake an error. He hit a grounder to me, and I threw it to the plate. The nextone was a little slower and in a little closer. I fielded it clean and threw itin. The third one was even tougher. I said to myself, 'I got to knock this guydown.' I threw the ball so it just missed Leo's head, and down he went. Hejumped up, chased me out toward second base and threw the fungo bat at me. Thenwe both looked at each other and laughed. In some ways we are the sametype."
THE TEN BIG-LEAGUE MANAGERS WHO ONCE HAD LEO AS THEIRWATCHFUL TUTOR
Eddie Stanky, While Sox, once executed for Dodgers 11straight two-strike suicide squeeze plays signaled by Leo.
Alvin Dark, Athletics, served Leo for five Giant years,first managed in 1955 when Leo told him to handle team for a day.
Charley Dressen, Detroit, spent eight years under Lip,complained in '65 TV-man Leo was second-guessing him.
Billy Herman, Boston, joined Leo in 1941 after aidingCubs in best years. His hit-and-run helped Leo to pennant.
Gil Hodges, Senators, came to Leo at Brooklyn in 1948as catcher, was converted into a first baseman by Durocher.
Bill Rigney, California, played for Leo as Giant forsix seasons, says, "We figured if he can manage anyone can."
Bobby Bragan, Atlanta, sat beside Leo on Dodger benchtwo years, was told, "Don't worry, you'll be a manager."
Herman Franks, Giants, served Durocher for nine seasonsand had hoped last year to hire him as a Giant coach.
Gene Mauch, Phillies, in Brooklyn under Leo, endedLeo's playing career with a bad throw that broke his thumb.
Wes Westrum, Mets, allowed by Leo to run Giants forday, quit at midgame because, "I was not ready for pressure."