Baseball Manager Leo Durocher Is Suspended for Gambling Ties

Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher got into a battle of words with Larry MacPhail, co-owner of the New York Yankees. Durocher, who had been warned by the baseball commissioner about consorting with gamblers, complained when he saw two well-known gamblers in the Yankees owner’s box during a game and argued that there was a double standard for managers. MacPhail then complained to the commissioner about Durocher’s statements, leading to Durocher’s suspension for the season.

Summary of Event

Leo Durocher was well known for his gambling habits. He also was known for his loudness and willingness to fight things out in the press. Larry MacPhail, too, was known for his unpredictable behavior and, like Durocher, for his ability to turn a losing team around. Durocher and MacPhail would get into a fight in 1947, leading, ultimately, to Durocher’s suspension, on April 9, for the season. [kw]Baseball Manager Leo Durocher Is Suspended for Gambling Ties (Spring, 1947)
[kw]Durocher Is Suspended for Gambling Ties, Baseball Manager Leo (Spring, 1947)
MacPhail, Larry
Chandler, Happy
Baseball;and gambling[gambling]
Durocher, Leo
MacPhail, Larry
Chandler, Happy
Baseball;and gambling[gambling]
Durocher, Leo
[g]United States;Spring, 1947: Baseball Manager Leo Durocher Is Suspended for Gambling Ties[00800]
[c]Corruption;Spring, 1947: Baseball Manager Leo Durocher Is Suspended for Gambling Ties[00800]
[c]Gambling;Spring, 1947: Baseball Manager Leo Durocher Is Suspended for Gambling Ties[00800]
[c]Organized crime and racketeering;Spring, 1947: Baseball Manager Leo Durocher Is Suspended for Gambling Ties[00800]
[c]Sports;Spring, 1947: Baseball Manager Leo Durocher Is Suspended for Gambling Ties[00800]

While Durocher enjoyed gambling personally, colleagues argued that he worked to keep gambling away from his team. According to sportscaster Red Barber, new Dodgers owner Branch Rickey ordered Durocher in 1942 to stop all gambling in the Dodgers clubhouse and on trains during road trips. Durocher complied, but he still gambled in his private life.

In 1944, Durocher’s friend, actor George Raft, was investigated for throwing a crooked dice game in Durocher’s apartment. Raft, who was known for his underworld associates, was not popular with the heads of baseball. In 1941, Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Kenesaw Mountain Landis refused Durocher’s request for four seats in the manager’s box for the actor. Durocher was not present at the infamous dice game of 1944, but the incident generated a fair amount of negative press. Raft and Durocher remained friends, leading to charges of guilt by association for Durocher. Commissioner Landis died in 1944 and was replaced by Happy Chandler, much to the liking of MacPhail, who strongly supported his selection.

In January, 1947, Durocher Marriage;Leo Durocher[Durocher] married actor Day, Laraine Laraine Day in El Paso, Texas, the same day she was divorced in Mexico. However, her husband was contesting the divorce in California, so the couple could not live together as a married couple in that state for a year. The controversy surrounding their marriage upset the commissioner, as well as the Catholic Youth Organization of Brooklyn Catholic Youth Organization of Brooklyn. As a result, the Catholic Youth Organization withdrew its participation in the Knothole Club, which provided free Dodgers tickets for children.

Around this time, Chandler met with Durocher and told him he could not associate with known gamblers. Durocher agreed, and during spring training “his deportment was downright monkish,” according to reporters. At a game against the Yankees in spring training, Durocher saw Memphis Engelberg and Connie Immerman, two well-known gamblers who Chandler warned Durocher to stay away from; Engelberg and Immerman were sitting with MacPhail in Yankees box seats. Durocher and Dodgers owner Rickey complained that if Durocher could not associate with gamblers, then neither should MacPhail.

In a column published in the Brooklyn Eagle (ghostwritten by Harold Parrott), Durocher wrote, “MacPhail was flaunting his company with known gamblers right in the players’ faces. . . . If I even said ’Hello’ to one of those guys, I’d be called before Commissioner Chandler and probably barred.” Durocher then called MacPhail a liar and claimed that MacPhail had “stolen” some of Coaches;baseball his coaches.

These accusations angered MacPhail, who filed a complaint with Chandler, arguing that Durocher’s “airing of dirty linen” was “detrimental to baseball.” After holding a closed hearing, Chandler suspended Durocher for the 1947 season, citing the “accumulation of unpleasant incidents in which he has been involved which the commissioner construes as detrimental to baseball.” In the uproar that followed, some fans and reporters “conceived the notion that Chandler was paying off a debt” to MacPhail. Also, demands began to pile up for the release of records of the hearing on Durocher. Chandler refused to release a transcript of the hearing or to elaborate on his reasons for the suspension; the exact reasons were never revealed.

Gambling was on the minds of many in New York in 1947; there were several gambling scandals in progress at the time, including those involving boxer Graziano, Rocky Rocky Graziano, the New York Giants football Football;and gambling[gambling] team, and the Brooklyn College basketball Basketball;and gambling[gambling] team. It is possible that because of these contemporary gambling scandals, the public came to associate Durocher’s suspension with gambling. Durocher’s infamous mouth, his unorthodox and possibly illegal Marriage;Leo Durocher[Durocher] marriage, and his past association with gamblers all likely contributed to his suspension. As Durocher biographer Gerald Eskenazi notes in his 1993 book The Lip,

We will never know all the ingredients that went into making the decision to suspend Leo. Even after it happened, there was so much reckless speculation that it has become a truth: Leo Durocher was suspended for 1947 for gambling, or for his associates, or for marrying a divorced woman before she was free.

Durocher’s suspension was especially upsetting to Rickey, who had wanted Durocher to be the manager who helped Jackie Robinson break into major-league baseball. Prior to Durocher’s suspension, a number of Dodgers players were circulating a petition to keep Robinson off the team. Durocher heard of this petition and called the players into a meeting, telling them that Robinson was on the team and that anyone who did not like it would be traded. Following Durocher’s suspension, Burton Shotton took over as team manager for the rest of the 1947 season, which ended when the Dodgers lost to the Yankees in the World Series.


The suspension of Durocher led to much discussion from sports writers and fans across the United States. Some thought Durocher deserved the suspension, but many felt Chandler’s actions were too severe. The actions, too, did not endear the commissioner to the public. The argument that the suspension was inspired by Durocher’s alleged continued association with gamblers has, over time, been repeated so often that it is now commonplace. However, Chandler never revealed his reasons for suspending Durocher.

Chandler’s term as commissioner, which expired in 1951, was not renewed. Some have argued that the Durocher incident was the reason for the rejection. Others noted that some owners were angry that Chandler allowed Robinson into the majors. Either way, 1947 had a major impact on his future as commissioner.

MacPhail left the Yankees after the 1947 season after being “bought out” by the other Yankees owners, partly because of an altercation with the press at the World Series championship party in the locker room. Durocher came back to the Dodgers in 1948 but left in July to manage the New York Giants. He later managed the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. Both Durocher and MacPhail are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

When Pete Rose was suspended from baseball in 1989 for gambling, Durocher’s 1947 suspension was brought up as a reminder of baseball’s tough stance on the issue. Durocher’s name, along with the name Rose, will forever be associated with the baseball scandal that is gambling, regardless of guilt or innocence. MacPhail, Larry
Chandler, Happy
Baseball;and gambling[gambling]
Durocher, Leo

Further Reading

  • Barber, Red. 1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball. New York: Doubleday, 1982. Book by Dodgers broadcaster covers the history of the relationships among Durocher, Rickey, and MacPhail, as well as some of the events leading up to Durocher’s suspension.
  • Durocher, Leo. Nice Guys Finish Last. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975. The chapter “A Hamfat Politician Named Happy,” presents a colorful discussion of the gambling and suspension scandal.
  • Eskenazi, Gerald. The Lip: A Biography of Leo Durocher. New York: William Morrow, 1993. Biography covers Durocher from his childhood in Massachusetts through his playing and managing days and beyond. Lengthy section on 1947 suspension examines how the rumors of suspension for gambling have remained unverified.
  • Ginsberg, Daniel E. The Fix Is In: A History of Baseball Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals. New York: McFarland, 2004. A valuable overview of a neglected component of baseball history.
  • Smith, Red. “Has Baseball Forgotten the Fan?” The Saturday Evening Post, October 4, 1947. Article published the final month of the 1947 season. Critical of Chandler’s decision to suspend Durocher. Details concerns with baseball owners and the commissioner overall.

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