Countdown to Opening Day: 2 Days – Leo Durocher


April 5, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of a new digital scoreboard in right field before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I wrote about former player/manager Phil Cavarretta and his success winning an MVP award while managing the Cubs to a World Series in 1945. Four years prior to Cavarretta doing that in Chicago, Leo Durocher was doing the same thing in Brooklyn, winning 100 games and an NL pennant.

It wasn’t until 25 years later that Durocher was at the tail end of a lifetime in the game and just was finishing off his managerial career on the North Side with the Cubbies – whilst wearing the No. 2 from 1966-72. Boy, did Durocher have a run – it’s about as successful as any Cubs manager this side of World War II.

Under Durocher from 1967-70, the Cubs finished in third in consecutive seasons, followed by back-to-back second-place finishes. He had a winning season in 1971 at 83-79 and even got fired in the middle of a winning season in 1972 – getting the plug pulled after a 46-44 start. By the time he was done in Chicago, Durocher had stockpiled 24 years as a manager to go along with an overlapped 20 years as a player. Even though he was not a manager or player from 1955-65, Durocher still tallied over 40 years in the game.

How long was Durocher a part of the planet’s greatest game? In 1928 he was allegedly nicknamed, “The All-American Out”. He wasn’t exactly a force with the bat. He hit .247 for his career with 24 home runs in his 20 seasons with a stick. In fact, the most noteworthy thing he ever did with his bat was making the last out in Johnny Vander Meer‘s second consecutive no-hitter in 1938. By the way, the guy who gave Durocher that wonderful nickname? Babe Ruth.

Told you he was around for a long time.

Durocher was reportedly a guy with great character and he was known as someone who had seen so much in the game it was stunning. Think about it. Durocher was on the roster with the 1927 Yankees, with Ruth and Gehrig and the likes. He managed the Giants to a World Championship while watching his center fielder, Willie Mays, make the best defensive play in World Series history in 1954. Heck, during his hiatus from the field from 1955-65 he was on an episode of “The Munsters”, “Mr. Ed” and “Who’s Line Is It?”.

He played with Babe Ruth and managed Burt Hooton – that’s a span of players’ careers that stretches from the 1920s to the mid-1980s. Not bad for the “All-American Out”, huh?