Tuesday, December 20, 2011
25,000 days since players revolt against DurocherPosted by Chris Jaffe
25,000 days was one of the roughest moments Leo Durocher ever had in major league baseball. His team mutinied on him, and it took the intervention of the general manager to quell it. The incident was so nasty, and it made Durocher look so bad, that he didn’t even mention it in his autobiography, Nice Guys Finish Last.
The fun began rather simply, as is often the case. In the summer of 1943, Dodger pitcher Bobo Newsom threw a ball that got past Brooklyn catcher Bobby Bragan. Durocher was upset about it, and told Tom Cohane, a beat writer, that he thought Newsom intentionally tried to cross up his catcher, throwing a spitter when Bragan asked for a fastball.
The writer told the other reporters about it, and they all printed up Durocher’s comments. Next day all the Brooklyn players read Durocher’s comments, and the rebellion was on. They didn’t like Durocher showing up a player in the media behind his back. They didn’t like Durocher accusing a veteran pitcher of unprofessional conduct on the mound in trying to cross up his catcher. They didn’t like Durocher saying their guy threw a spitter.
The next day in batting practice, shortstop and future Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan told Durocher that if he really said what the papers claimed he said, then Durocher could find another infielder because Vaughan was turning in his uniform. Fellow veteran Dixie Walker joined in.
The clubhouse was in arms and calling for Durocher’s head. At the time, Durocher had led the Dodgers to back-to-back 100-win seasons, and so under normal circumstances he’d be considered safe. But these weren’t totally normal circumstances.
First, Brooklyn was in the midst of an off year, and a recent losing spell knocked them out of first. They’d never recover, finishing over 20 games behind the first-place Cardinals. Second, the GM who hired Durocher was gone. Larry MacPhail gave Durocher the GM job, but now the Brooklyn GM was Branch Rickey. Finally, Durocher always had an unseemly personal reputation. That always makes criticism against him stick a little easier.
Durocher’s reaction to the player rebellion nearly did him in altogether. He swore to his players he never said any such thing to the reporter and demanded Cochran come down for a confrontation about it in front of the entire team. Apparently Durocher hoped to make Cochan back down, but instead Durocher’s move backfired.
Cochran came down and in front of the entire team in the clubhouse, he cross-examined Durocher, getting Leo the Lip to admit everything in the newspaper was true, and he had said it. Suddenly, Durocher’s job looked to be in serious jeopardy.
However, new GM Branch Rickey was a believer in Durocher. He backed his manager, thinking Leo was the best man for the job. Instead, he jettisoned Bobo Newsom in a trade. Dodger announcer Red Barber later recounted this incident in the first chapter of his book, 1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball, and argued that was the beginning of the end for Durocher. He survived, but only because Rickey backed him, not because he had much personal credibility with the team.
Aside from the Mutiny on the S. S. Durocher, many other events celebrate a “day-versary” or anniversary today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim the list.
3,000 days since the Marlins beat the Giants 4-3 in 11 innings in Game Three of the 2003 NLDS. It was tied at 2 after 10 innings, and Florida won it with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning.
5,000 days since Kerry Wood made his major league debut.
6,000 days since the White Sox released Rob Dibble.
6,000 days since Dave Stewart appeared in his last game.
6,000 days since the major league debuts for both Jeff Suppan and Jason Isringhausen.
7,000 days since in Game Three of the 1992 World Series, Toronto narrowly topped Atlanta 3-2. It was 1-1 after seven frames and Atlanta got one in the top of the eighth only to see Toronto tie it in the bottom of the eighth and win it in the ninth.
8,000 days since Atlanta traded third baseman Jim Presley to the Mariners.
9,000 days since Ellis Burks made his big league debut. In that same game, his teammate Wade Boggs belted his 1,000th hit. It took him only 747 games to do it.
10,000 days since Rollie Fingers had back surgery to alleviate a herniated disk in his back.
20,000 days since Boston offered the Indians $1,000,000 for pitching sensation Herb Score.
25,000 days since Rufus “Sonnyman” Jackson, owner of the Negro Leagues Homestead Grays, was jailed after a confrontation with Mexicans trying to sign his players.
40,000 days since Corsicana topped Texarkana 51 to 3 in the Texas League. Jay “Nig” Clarke belted eight homers in the game for Corsicana.
Also, at some point today it’ll be one billion seconds since the time Cecil Cooper and Don Money belted grand slams in the second inning for Milwaukee in a 18-1 win over Boston.
1856 Harry Stovey, outfielder and at one point baseball’s all-time home run king, is born. After Stovey, the record hold becomes Roger Connor, then Babe Ruth, then Hank Aaron, and now Barry Bonds.
1881 Branch Rickey, greatest executive in baseball history, is born.
1888 Fred Merkle, famous for not touching second base, is born.
1889 Toledo joins the American Association, which was the NL’s rival major league back in the day.
1899 George Pipgras, pitcher, is born.
1900 Gabby Hartnett, Hall of Famer catcher, is born.
1903 Kid Nichols signs on to be the pitcher-manager for the St. Louis Cardinals.
1903 The Yankees trade pitcher Jesse Tannehill to Boston fro Tom Hughes.
1904 Spud Davis, catcher, is born.
1921 Baseball owners vote to return the World Series to a best-of-seven games format. It was best-of-nine from 1919 to 1921.
1921 The Yankees make a big trade with the Red Sox. Boston gets Roger Peckinpaugh, Rip Collins, Jack Quinn, a fourth player, and $100,000 from the Yankees in return for Bullet Joe Bush, Sad Sam Jones, and Everett Scott. Almost all the players in this trade will have nice careers. Quinn and Jones will pitch until the 1930s, and Peckinpaugh will be a very nice shortstop for the 1920s. Scott will set a record for most consecutive games played that Lou Gehrig later shatters.
1926 Commissioner Judge Landis meets with Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Smokey Joe Wood about allegations of a fixed game in 1919. Dutch Leonard, the man who leveled the accusations, does not attend out of fear that Cobb will hurt him.
1926 St. Louis trades Rogers Hornsby to the Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring. Hornsby was not only St. Louis’ star second baseman, he was also their manager in the recently completed championship season.
1929 Boston Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan resigns from his job.
1933 Washington trades star outfielder Goose Goslin to the Tigers for John Stone.
1940 Connie Mack buys a controlling interest in the Philadelphia A’s from the Shibe family for $42,000.
1946 The Tigers released catcher Paul Richards, who will become a very successful manager.
1949 Cecil Cooper, Brewers first baseman in the 1980s, is born.
1949 Oscar Gamble, slugger for 1977 South Side Hit Men and possessor of the greatest Afro in baseball history, is born.
1958 Bill Veeck and his partners win majority control of the White Sox.
1960 Charles O. Finley buys 52 percent of the Kansas City A’s from the estate of Arnold Johnson for $2,000,000.
1960 Jose DeLeon is born.
1972 Gabby Hartnett dies on his 72nd birthday.
1974 The Yankees release what’s left of starting pitcher Sudden Sam McDowell.
1975 The Phillies trade future manger Johnny Oates to the Dodgers.
1976 Aubrey Huff is born.
1977 Seattle signs free agent first baseman Bruce Bochte.
1978 Willard Mullin, once honored as sports cartoonist of the century (largely for his creation of a Brooklyn “Bum” cartoon), dies at age 76.
1982 David Wright, Mets third baseman, is born.
1983 The Royals trade first baseman Willie Mays Aikens to the Blue Jays for Jorge Orta.
1983 Milwaukee trades starting pitcher Jim Slaton to the Angels. Slaton won 117 games with the Brewers, which is still the most in franchise history.
1983 The Giants sign free agent Manny Trillo.
1984 The Yankees trade veteran shortstop Tim Foli, slugger Steve Kemp, and money to Pittsburgh for infielder Dale Berra, prospect Jay Buhner, and a third player. Buhner is the most important player here, but instead of reaping the benefit of him, the Yankees will later trade him to Seattle for an aging Ken Phelps.
1989 Boston releases longtime reliever Bob Stanley.
1989 Detroit releases former ace reliever Willie Hernandez.
1989 Los Angeles trades outfielder Mike Marshall and former ERA title winner Alejandro Pena to the Mets for second baseman Juan Samuel.
1991 The Mets sign free agent second baseman Willie Randolph for the last season of his career.
1993 Seattle trades shortstop Omar Vizquel to the Indians for a pair of players and cash.
1995 Baltimore signs free agent B.J. Surhoff.
1996 Minnesota signs free agent closer Gregg Olson. This move won’t work for them.
1999 Milwaukee trades Fernando Vina to the Cardinals.
1999 Seattle signs free agent Mark McLemore, who will have a nice career for them.
2000 In Cuban baseball, Faustiano Corrales fans 22 batters, a new record for a nine-inning game down there.
2001 The Jean Yawkey Trust announces that partners will need to a unanimous vote to sell 100 percent of the club to John Henry.
2002 Atlanta trades starting pitcher Kevin Millwood to the Phillies for backup catcher Johnny Estrada. This move is largely a salary dump dictated by the Braves’ Time Warner ownership group.
2002 Chicago signs free agent starting pitcher Shawn Estes.
2004 The Yankees sign a pair of free agents: Carl Pavano and Tony Womack.
2005 Arizona trades starting pitcher Javier Vazquez to the White Sox for Orlando Hernandez, Luis Vizciano, and Chris Young.
2005 Dodgers sign free agent Kenny Lofton.
2007 The Mariners sign Carlos Silva as a free agent. This turns out to be a terrible signing, as Silva goes 5-18 over two years with them before being traded to the Cub for the ruined shell of Milton Bradley.
2007 Philadelphia signs free agent left fielder Geoff Jenkins.
2007 Tommy Byrne, former big league pitcher, dies.
2010 Indians sign free agent Austin Kearns.
2010 The White Sox sign free agent relief pitcher Jesse Crain.
2010 The Padres sign free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.