On March 24, 1947, longtime Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher confessed to playing card games within the clubhouse in a four-hour meeting with the Major League Baseball commissioner Albert “Happy” Chandler at the Sarasota Terrace Hotel.
Durocher’s meeting with Chandler would ultimately lead to the commissioner suspending him for the 1947 season due to Durocher’s “association with known gamblers.”
Originating from a feud with the New York Yankees co-owner Larry MacPhail (who pushed Chandler to investigate Durocher), the Dodgers skipper came clean in their meeting about occasionally playing card games with then-Brooklyn starting pitcher Kirby Higbe.
After sitting out the 1947 season to serve his suspension, a season in which the Dodgers would win the National League pennant but lose to MacPhil’s Yankees in the World Series with interim manager Burt Shotton at the helm, Durocher returned the following year to manage the New York Giants.
He remained the Giants’ manager until 1955, capturing both an NL Pennant in 1951 and his only World Series title as manager in 1954.
Despite the suspension for gambling, Durocher is mainly remembered fondly within baseball circles. A career .247 hitter and 2,008-1,709 record as a manager, he played for four Major League organizations, including four stints with the Dodgers between being both a player, manager or coach.
Posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994, Durocher would eventually return to the franchise as a coach in the 1960s. He was also noteworthy in helping the traction of baseball’s color barrier being broken: he was outspoken regarding Jackie Robinson’s appointment into the Major Leagues in the spring of 1947, just before being suspended.
Fernando Valenzuela reports to Dodgers camp after contract holdout
Also on this day in Dodgers history, Fernando Valenzuela reported to Vero Beach in 1982 Spring Training camp after holding out for three weeks because of failed contract negotiations with the organization.
After his unequivocally dominant 1981 rookie season, which saw Valenzuela become the first player ever to win Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award in the same season while making just $42,500, Valenzuela felt he was worth more than Los Angeles’ initial offer of $350,000 for his sophomore season in the Major Leagues.
Even upon his arrival to camp, the eventual six-time All-Star still refused to sign the deal that would have made him the highest-paid second-year player in MLB history at the time, believing he was worth more.
Ultimately, Valenzuela’s intuition would prove correct as he would be awarded a contract worth $1 million through an arbitration case.
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