Friday, February 13, 2015

Former MLB Commissioner Happy Chandler had No Love for Leo Durocher

The other day I featured a personal letter currently for sale at Legendary Auctions that was written by MLB Commissioner Happy Chandler that addressed his role in integrating Baseball (you can check out that post here).  He expressed obvious displeasure at having his role diminished by history.

In addition to that letter is more correspondence that is of interest to Dodger fans.  In a 1988 letter to former Dodger executive and GM Buzzie Bavasi he let us know that he is not in favor of admitting former Dodger manager Leo Durocher into the Hall of Fame.  In fact, he was adamant that Durocher was not eligible.  He writes:
Leo Durocher made me more trouble during my time as Commissioner than all the other Baseball players in both the Major Leagues.  I frequently talked with Rickey about him, and his need for discipline.  Rickey promised me that he would take care of him, but after numerous failures on Rickey's part, I asked him to turn him over to me.
I do not think he is eligible for the Hall of Fame.
As you know, Leo Durocher was eventually admitted into the Hall in 1994 as a part of an Veteran's Committee vote.

It's likely that Chandler, when considering eligibility, was referencing Durocher's friendships with known gamblers, book-makers and mobsters.  After all, association with gambling is a big no-no, and Durocher's dalliances with this crowd became headline news during his managing days.  Nevertheless, Durocher was never banned (unlike Joe Jackson or Pete Rose), so he was in good standing.

Of special note, Chandler writes a bit about former Dodger PR executive Harold Parrott.  He wrote:
Harold Parrott came and cried to me with respect to his fine, which was deserved.  I rescinded it because he made me think that I was causing his family to starve.  He repaid me by being nasty to me all the days of his life.
Parrott was Durocher's ghostwriter in a regular column in the Brooklyn Eagle, and got into trouble with Chandler when he penned a piece criticizing him.  At the time there were wild accusations about Durocher and Yankee owner Larry MacPhail's connections to gamblers, but the league chose to only come down hard on Durocher.  Parrott's article called that a double-standard.

If you are not familiar with Harold Parrott you can watch the movie "42" for some context.  He was the small fellow with glasses who always seemed to be hanging around Harrison Ford's character Branch Rickey.  A picture of him, as played by TR Knight, is on the left.

Check out the letter below, and check out the auction here.

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