Paul Dickson’s new book, Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son, is out this week to lively reviews. Publisher’s Weekly says: “The author often approaches his subject with tabloid fervor as he writes of the manager’s 1947 game suspension, his contested friendship with actor George Raft and his gangster buddies, his divorces (including from actress Loraine Day), and his feuds with Babe Ruth and Casey Stengel. Dickson’s entertaining book brings the rambunctious Hall of Famer and true sports original to life.”
Durocher enjoyed battling with the press almost as much as with opposing teams. Here’s Dickson on Durocher in 1938 when Leo was player-manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. After a brawl over an umpire’s call in a Dodgers-Pirates game, Durocher had been tossed by umpire George Magerkurth. Dickson describes what happened the next day:
Durocher was notified by Ford Frick that he had been fined $150 for abusing an umpire, while lesser fines were levied on five other players. Leo, steaming over what he deemed an injustice, walked out of the hotel to get some fresh air for a few minutes and encountered Ted Meier, an Associated Press reporter who wanted a statement from him on the events with Magerkurth. One word led to another, and manager and reporter adjourned to an alley alongside the hotel, where Leo, although outweighed by some thirty pounds, flattened Meier three times with punches on the chin. Just as Meier was getting to his feet after the last knockdown and onlookers were pulling Durocher away from him, a cop appeared on the scene.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded.
“Nothing, Officer,” said Jerry Mitchell of the New York Post. “It’s only that the Dodgers are in town.”