National League / Gordon Edes : Durocher Jumped Ship, and Cubs Began to Sink

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Pedro Guerrero’s absence Friday brings to mind another celebrated disappearance in the midst of a pennant race. This one didn’t involve a player, but a manager, Leo Durocher.

On the last weekend in July, 1969, the Cubs were playing a nationally televised game against the Dodgers in Wrigley Field when Durocher, the manager of the Cubs, left the ballpark, saying he was ill.

The Cubs went on to win the game, 3-2, in 11 innings, under fill-in manager Pete Reiser. The next day, a Sunday, Durocher also was absent, and the Dodgers beat the Cubs, 6-2.


But a Chicago newspaper, the Today, reported that when Cubs physician Dr. Jacob Suker had called Durocher’s home, there was no answer. The newspaper then learned that Durocher had taken a charter flight to a boys’ camp near Eagle River, Wis., Camp Ojibwa, to visit the son of his new wife, Mrs. Lynne Walker Goldblatt.

When Cubs owner Phil Wrigley, at his summer home in Lake Geneva, Wis., was told the real reason for Durocher’s absence, he was livid.

“I was told Leo was sick,” Wrigley said. “I had no idea he wasn’t confined to his home. . . . I feel he owes an apology to management, the players and fans. You can’t run a ship without a rudder.”

A few days later, Wrigley publicly exonerated Durocher. But as any Bleacher Bum could tell you, in the next two months the Cub ship foundered and eventually ran aground while the New York Mets (the Amazin’s) won the pennant going away.

According to Today reporter Jim Enright, who covered the Cubs in 1969, their epitaph should be: “Died from a lack of leadership.”

When the Pittsburgh Pirates took the field against the Philadelphia Phillies Thursday afternoon for the first game to be played after the strike, Lee Mazzilli of the Pirates was not in the starting lineup.


Mazzilli’s explanation: “I never play day games after a strike.”

Add Mazzilli: Earlier this season, he had complained that the last-place Pirates were going so bad, they no longer had Penthouse magazine to read in the clubhouse, just National Geographic.

Someone at Penthouse took note of Mazzilli’s plight and last week sent him copies of the magazine with a note hoping that Mazzilli’s literary pursuits would now be fulfilled.

More Pirates: When Bill Madlock resigned as team captain, he said he could no longer be captain and the team’s player representative. After the strike was settled, Madlock said: “I gave up the wrong job.”

Sales pitch: George Hendrick, who had pulled a thigh muscle, was playing infrequently for the Pirates just before the Angels traded for him. But Angel officials said that they needed to see him in action--even if it were just batting practice--before going ahead with the trade. So Pirate coach Willie Stargell persuaded Hendrick to step into the cage, where he reportedly put on a tremendous exhibition. Obviously, he impressed the Angels.

Dancing fool: Atlanta reliever Terry (Fat Tub of Goo) Forster, an appearance on the “David Letterman Show” behind him, is branching out in the entertainment field. This week, while the Braves are here to play the Dodgers, Letterman is scheduled to make his first music video, to be filmed at Venice Beach.

The song: “Fat Is In,” to be performed by Forster and the Lovehandles. When will it all end.