Forty years ago today, an extremely ugly clubhouse argument occurred. Longtime manager Leo Durocher said it was the angriest he ever saw a player in his life. No one threw any punches, but it came close.
On Aug. 23, 1971, just before a Cubs-Reds game, Ron Santo exploded in the home team clubhouse at Wrigley Field.
The background: on the eve of a special Ron Santo Day at Wrigley, the third baseman was mired in a slump. A few days earlier, Santo had even asked Durocher if they could cancel the day because he didn’t want to be celebrated while playing poorly. No dice. The Cub general manager even told Durocher the special day was Santo’s idea, during contract negotiations for that season. As his hitting slump continued, Santo had since asked out of batting practice for a few days, hoping to break out of it, and Durocher agreed.
In the meeting, Durocher mentioned that some players should take more practice, and Santo took offense. Pappas and Pepitone got involved, spending time laying into Leo, who by now had lost control of the meeting.
So Durocher hit back. He accused Santo of being two-faced and told the entire team that Santo had asked out of the special day for which he himself had bargained.
That’s when Santo erupted. He screamed that it was a lie—he’d never asked for the special day in his honor. He went right up to Durocher and screamed right in his face. Santo always was an emotional man.
The GM came down and confirmed Durocher’s story. Santo howled that he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Pappas and Pepitone complained that Durocher had just destroyed Santo. Durocher himself was sick of it all, and tore his uniform off, saying he was done.
Pappas and some others wanted to vote on if they should ask Cubs owner Phil Wrigley to get rid of Durocher. Then things backed down. Some players, most notably Jim Hickman, vigorously argued on Durocher’s behalf. Durocher’s coaches told the team they’d be hounded across the nation as crybabies if they asked for their manager’s resignation during a pennant race.
Santo agreed the team needed Durocher. Emotionally drained, he made amends with the manager. The team talked Durocher down from resigning, and he put his Cubs jersey back on.
Then they went out and beat the Reds, 6-1. The previously slumping Santo went 3-for-4 with two doubles, and three RBIs. Shortly after, he had his special day, during which he publicly announced for the first time ever that he was diabetic. All proceeds for the day went to the Diabetic Association.
The press heard about the clubhouse blowout almost immediately. With stories of Durocher’s imminent departure circulating, Phil Wrigley took an unusual step to quiet them—a full-page advertisement in all the Chicago papers strongly defending Durocher. He flatly stated:
Leo is the team manager and the “Dump Durocher Clique” might as well give up. He is running the team and if some of the players do not like it and lie down on the job, during the offseason we will see what we can do to find them happier homes.
No way Wrigley was dumping the manager. Not in 1971, anyway. Instead, Wrigley canned Durocher at the All-Star Break in 1972, 11 months after the eruption.
Here are some other events celebrating their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago” today. The better ones are in bold if you just want to skim:
3,000 days since the Rangers traded Ruben Sierra to the Yankees.
4,000 days since the Giants signed amateur free agent Francisco Liriano.
6,000 days since the Orioles canceled all their remaining games in the 1995 spring training, as team owner Peter Angelos refused to use replacement players.
8,000 days since the only game in which Tony Gwynn recorded two sacrifice hits.
15,000 days since a 30-year-old Ron Santo stole two bases in one game for the only time in his career. In fact, those are the only steals he had in all 1970. Santo stole 35 bases total in his full career.
25,000 days since Spalding Company began manufacturing a new baseball due to the ongoing Second World War.
30,000 days since Charley Root lost his seventh straight decision, his all-time worst slump.
1870 George Davis, Hall of Fame shortstop, is born.
1884 Harry Wright, the game’s first great manager, helms his 1,000th game. He’s 615-374 (not including pre-1871 games).
1891 The Reds release 300-game winner Old Hoss Radbourn.
1901 The Reds release 200-game winner Gus Weyhing.
1906 The “Hitless Wonder” Chicago White Sox win their 19th consecutive game.
1907 Pittsburgh’s Howie Camnitz tosses a shortened game five-inning no-hitter, prevailing over the Giants, 1-0.
1909 Catcher Bill Bergen tosses out six of eight would-be base stealers.
1909 The Cubs steal home three times in one game.
1910 Pirate outfielder Fred Clarke makes four assists in one game.
1910 Lonny Frey, infielder, is born.
1912 Walter Johnson wins his 16th straight decision, 8-1 for Washington over the Tigers.
1916 Ty Cobb goes from first to third on a single to left against the A’s, and then steals home.
1919 Detroit wins, giving manager Hughie Jennings a career record 193 games over .500 (1,055-862), his peak.
1920 Carl Mays wins his 100th game, 100-63.
1922 Hall of Famer George Kell is born.
1924 Dazzy Vance ties his personal nine-inning best with 15 strikeouts in one game.
1924 Herb Pennock completes his 15th straight start, his personal best. His line in that time: 11-3 W-L, 2 SHO, 135 IP, 129 H, 36 R, 33 ER, 24 BB, 45 K, and a 2.22 ERA.
1928 The New York Yankees claim veteran hurler Tom Zachary off waivers from Washington. Zachary’s most famous moment came the year before, when he allowed Ruth’s 60th homer of the year.
1929 The Chicago Cubs purchase Lon Warneke from Alexandria in the Cotton States League.
1930 Frankie Frisch cracks out his 2,000th hit in only his 1,541st game.
1931 The Yankees trade players to San Francisco in the Pacific Coast League for shortstop Frankie Crosetti.
1931 Mickey Cochrane gets his 1,000th hit.
1931 Chick Hafey has his greatest game, going 5-for-5 with a double, two homers, and eight RBIs as the Cardinals destroys the Braves, 16-1.
1931 Lefty Grove posts his 10th consecutive Quality Start, his best such streak, but he is in an absolutely foul mood after the game. You see, his 16-game winning streak came to an end thank to an error by leftfielder Jim Moore. Grove has a 15-minute temper tantrum after the A’s fall to the Browns, 1-0.
1932 Al Simmons belts his 200th home run.
1932 The Cubs go an entire game with only one assist, beating the Phillies, 5-1.
1936 Bill McKechnie loses his 1,000th game. He’s 1,055-1,000 for his career.
1936 In his first big league start, 17-year-old Bob Feller fans 15 batters and records his first win.
1938 Bill Terry manages his 1,000th game. He’s won three pennants and one world title so far, but won’t have any more October glory as a skipper.
1939 Charlie Gehringer has the last of nine multi-home run games.
1942 In a special game at Yankee Stadium for the army/navy relief fund, 69,136 see Babe Ruth face Walter Johnson, and homer off the fifth pitch.
1942 Big league baseball sees seven shutouts tossed in 16 contests (lots of doubleheaders). There’s nearly an eighth shutout as Ted Lyons wins 3-1 on a three-hitter.
1953 Phil Paine becomes the first former big leaguer to play in Japan. The one time Brave joins the Nishistsu Lions.
1956 Nellie Fox collects seven consecutive hits in a doubleheader, helping the White Sox sweep the Yankees.
1957 Wally Burnette becomes the last A’s pitcher to last at least nine inning in relief. He allows one run in 10 innings.
1957 Mike Boddicker is born.
1957 Monterrey, Mexico team becomes the first foreign team to win the Little League World Series.
1958 Baltimore claims Hoyt Wilhelm off waivers from Cleveland. This move works out great for them.
1958 Gil Hodges sets a new NL record by hitting his 14th career grand slam.
1958 AD Birth of ageless wonder Julio Franco.
1958 Don Drysdale blasts two home runs out of the park in 10-1 win for the Dodgers over Milwaukee.
1959 Don Drysdale gets stuck with two losses in one day. In the first game of a Dodger-Pirate doubleheader, he starts and loses. In game two, he pitches in relief and loses.
1960 Lew Burdette tosses his third straight complete game shutout. His overall line: 27 IP, 12 H, 1 BB, 9 K.
1961 The Giants belt five homers in the ninth inning against the Reds.
1962 Steve Boros makes four errors in one inning for Detroit, but they beat the Indians anyway.
1964 Roberto Clemente slugs his 100th home run.
1968 Lindy McDaniel has one of the best relief performances in baseball history, retiring all 21 batters he faces. Since 1920, no one can top that and only once has it been equaled (by Jake Westbrook in 2004).
1969 Detroit’s Jim Northrup gets six hits in a 13-inning game.
1970 Cincinnati phenom Don Gullett fans six straight Mets.
1970 For the second straight day, Roberto Clemente records five hits in a game.
1972 Dick Allen becomes only the fourth player to ever hit a homer into the centerfield bleachers in Comiskey Park. Only Hank Greenberg, Jimmie Foxx, and Alex Johnson did it previously. As it happens, on that day, Sox announcer (and Allen critic) Harry Caray calls the game from the centerfield bleachers.
1974 Rick Reuschel enjoys his best day according to WPA. He tosses a complete game shutout for the Cubs in a 1-0 win over the Giants. His WPA: 0.828.
1975 For the 32nd and final time, Sweet Swinging Billy Williams hits multiple home runs in one game.
1975 Nolan Ryan undergoes surgery on his pitching elbow.
1978 According to WPA, Victor Cruz records the best relief stint in Toronto history on this day: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 4 K for a 0.790 WPA.
1980 Charles O. Finley sells the A’s to Walter Haas, Wally Haas, and Roy Eisenhardt for $12.7 million.
1982 The Reds trade Jim Kern to the White Sox for challenging Cincinnati’s team policy on no facial hair.
1982 It finally happens – umps eject Gaylord Perry for applying a foreign substance to the ball. It’s the first ejection for this in 40 years in the major leagues.
1983 Amos Otis collects his 2,000th hit.
1983 Dave Concepcion gets ejected for arguing a caught steal with umpire Dave Pallone, and will draw a three game suspension for spitting on the ump.
1984 Charlie Robertson, threw a perfect game in 1922, dies.
1985 Andres Galarraga makes his big league debut.
1989 The Dodgers top the Expos 1-0 in 22 innings on a walk-off homer by Rick Dempsey. It’s the latest walk-off home run in NL history. Montreal pitchers walk zero batters in the game, the longest contest since at least 1920 where a staff didn’t do that. Larry Walker, playing in just his seventh big league game, records two sacrifice hits. He’ll end his playing days with seven SH in all.
1991 Royals second baseman Terry Schumpert achieves the rare four-base error. He collides with right fielder Danny Tartabull on a pop/fly, allowing Texas batter Juan Gonzalez to score, along with two base runners.
1992 There’s a double no-hitter in the Class A Florida State League by Andy Carter of Clearwater and Scott Bakum of Winter Have. Clearwater wins 1-0, thanks to a two-walk inning.
1993 For the fifth and final time, Joe Carter belts three homers in a game.
1994 Butte beats Billings 22-21 in a Pioneer League game. Added bonus: this ends a 15-game winning streak for Billings.
1995 Lou Whitaker hits a pinch-hit walk-off home run, one of two career pinch-hit shots, and his seventh of eight walk-offs.
1996 The Yankees trade Bob Wickman to the Brewers.
1998 Felipe Alou manages his 1,000th game. He’s 521-479.
1998 Barry Bonds belts his 400th home run, achieving his lifelong dream of being a 400/400 steals/homer guy. No one pays any attention, helping to propel Bonds’ career in a different direction.
1999 Bud Selig announces that Pete Rose will be invited to the World Series if he’s named to the All-Century Team.
1999 Scott Rolen suffers through probably his worst day at the plate, going 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. It’s his only five-strikeout game. Oh, and his Phillies lose 7-6 to San Diego.
2000 Jim Thome records his 1,000th hit.
2000 Tiger fans flee their seats when insects swarm the place. They don’t bother the players, though.
2000 Dodger president Bob Graziano apologizes to two female fans who were asked to leave the park on Aug. 8 because they kissed each other.
2001 For only the 12th time in baseball history, teammates hit back-to-back pinch-hit homers. It’s Barry Bonds and Shawon Dunston on the Giants.
2002 Hoyt Wilhelm, the first Hall of Fame knuckleballer, dies.
2002 Sammy Sosa endures his worst WPA game: -0.421 WPA. He’s 0-for-5 with a K as the Diamondbacks top the Cubs, 3-2.
2003 Bobby Bonds dies.
2003 The Yankees retire Ron Guidry’s number, 49.
2004 Scott Kazmir makes his big league debut.
2009 Angel Pagan legs out a lead-off inside the park home run off of Pedro Martinez. It’s only the second inside-the-park homer Martinez has ever surrendered, but one of his record 19 lead off blasts allowed.