The squeaky clean Leo Durocher story

durocher

In 1963 I got in touch with Leo Durocher—Leo the Lip as he was known—to get Sandy Koufax’s telephone number. I was on a bit of a left-handed pitcher rampage then, being in the midst of one of my break-ups with Bo Belinsky. We had broken off our engagement and it seemed to me the best way to get back at Bo was to make him jealous with another southpaw. Leo told me he wouldn’t give me Sandy’s number on the phone, but to come up to his house and he would.

Leo Durocher had a tumultuous career as a baseball player and, most famously, as a big league manager. He skippered the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, where he won his only World Series title. Leo had been married to Laraine Day, but was divorced in 1960. He was living in L.A. and working as a coach for the then relocated Dodgers. (In one of those weird six degrees of separation coincidences, Leo would be the manager the Chicago Cubs in 1967 when my husband, Lee Meyers, was traded there.)

When we met, Leo was in his late fifties and I in my early thirties. To begin with, he was charming and very different from his reputation as one of the most combative managers in baseball. He had a beautiful home tucked away in a canyon up in the Hollywood Hills.

Inside, the house was completely, spotlessly clean. In fact, it looked so sterilized it was hard to imagine anyone living there. We made small talk in the living room for a while and at some point I asked for a glass of water. We went into the kitchen, which looked every bit as free of living organisms as the rest of the house and Leo poured me a glass of water. After I drank it and set glass on the countertop, Leo immediately snatched the glass and washed it in the sink. I mean he really washed it vigorously—steaming hot water and soap—then carefully dried the glass and placed it back among the neatly aligned rows of glasses in the kitchen cabinet.

I commented about what a lovely home it was and asked how many bedrooms it had. Three, he said, and then commenced telling me about his brand new bed. He led me into the master bedroom and proudly showed off a king-sized bed with an enormous, ornate, Moroccan-looking headboard.

“That’s really gorgeous,” I fibbed, looking at its intricately bizarre carving. Then I sat on the edge of the bed and bounced a couple times.

“No, no!” Leo shouted.

Frightened, I jumped up and looked around to see if I had broken something. Leo quickly straightened the coverlet, making sure it was back in perfect alignment.

“Well, Leo,” I said awkwardly, feeling like I was in a flashback to my days with Howard Hughes, “it’s been lovely to meet you, but I suppose I should be going. Could you give me Sandy’s number now?”

I had not heard of obsessive compulsive disorder back then, but it was clear to me that Leo and I were not going to be pals. He jotted down Kofax’s number and ushered me to the door. I thanked him and he replied, “Just don’t tell him I gave it to you.”

Next time, Kofax, another left-handed pitcher.

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