Twenty-two years ago, Durocher passed away at age 86 in Palm Springs, California. While several stories existed painting him as a thief (stealing money from Babe Ruth during his time with the Yankees), a gambler (he was suspended for the 1947 season as manager of the Dodgers for his association with gamblers) and had issues getting along with umpires and the media, there is no doubt that he knew the game of baseball. He won World Series twice as a player (1928 Yankees and 1934 Cardinals), once as a manager (1954 Giants) and won two more Pennants in 1941 for the Dodgers and 1951 for the Giants as a manager. His playing career lasted 17 seasons between 1925 and 1945, playing for four teams, Yankees, Reds, Cardinals and Dodgers- the same amount of teams he would manage. He started his managerial career in 1939 with the Dodgers, serving as a player/ manager through the 1941 season and returning to play for parts of the 1943 and 1945 seasons.
Durocher led the Dodgers to the first NL playoff series in the league's history in 1946. They lost a best of three to the St Louis Cardinals 2-0, with the Cardinals advancing to face the Boston Red Sox. He was planning to integrate Jackie Robinson onto the 1947 Dodgers team. Owner Branch Rickey had signed Robinson, who spent the 1946 season playing for the Montreal Royals. Durocher was the right manager for Robinson to play for, as his tough demeanor generally commanded his players' respect. The following was Durocher's quote to his player in the spring of that season: "I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin' zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What's more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded."
Durocher would enjoy his best success as manager of the Giants. Managing from 1948-1955, he led the team to two NL Pennants and the 1954 World Series, the team's first since 1933. Of course, the Giants would not win another World Series until the year 2010. The 1950s were about teams moving and baseball taking over territory in the central and western parts of the country. After the Dodgers and Giants moved to California, he joined the LA Dodgers as a coach under manager Walter Alston in the early 1960. This was after he spent some time as a broadcaster for the "Game of the Week" for NBC in the late 1950s.
He returned to managing for the 1966 season with the Chicago Cubs. After finishing in last place that year, he led the Cubs to six straight winning seasons before he was let go in the middle of the 1972 season. The Houston Astros quickly picked him up and he managed them through the 1973 season. Durocher managed a total of 24 seasons, winning 2008 and losing 1709. He was also on the coaching staff of LA Dodgers teams that won the World Series in 1963 and 1965.
Durocher was not perfect. He was not loved by everybody. He was known to have made a lot of enemies in his life. But he was a winner. He won as a player, manager and a coach. The teams he was a part of were better because he was there. As a player, he had a fire to him that was contagious. As a manager, he demanded his players play the way he did when he played. He was a Hall of Famer before his death in 1991, but he never got the call. He should have been selected years before he died. He is a Hall of Famer now, since 1994, posthumously.
Durocher probably would not be able to handle being a manager in this generation. The overpaid players would tune him out, knowing they are staying likely longer than the manager anyways. When Durocher managed, he could give his players that motivation by challenging them. Also, he had control of what players he could keep and what ones to get rid of. It is safe to say there will not be another like him. I don't think baseball will allow it.