Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cubs 365, August 23

On this day in 1971, Cubs manager Leo Durocher completely lost his composure in the clubhouse, and in so doing, may have lost his team forever.

It was before a game against the Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs were 11 games over .500 and only 4 1/2 games behind the first place Pittsburgh Pirates. But Leo was still upset with pitcher Milt Pappas. The previous game he had allowed the winning run in a 4-3 loss when Doug Radar hit an 0-2 pitch for a double.

Leo called a club meeting and ripped Pappas for his stupidity. After his little speech he opened the floor for comments.

Joe Pepitone was the first one to defend Milt. He said: "He didn't want to do it. Why are you always blaming people?" Ken Holtzman and Pappas also spoke out, ripping Durocher.

That's when Leo lost it. He tore into every player on the team in a legendary expletive filled tirade. Among those he ripped was team captain Ron Santo. He said that Santo was a malingerer who played politics with the front office. Among his charges was that Santo was pouting and demanding a Ron Santo day.

That's when Santo lost it. He called Durocher a liar and had to be physically restrained by his teammates.

The Cubs somehow went out and won the game, but afterwards they spiraled into a deep losing streak. They lost 16 of their next 21 games.

Cubs owner Phillip Wrigley didn't speak up about the dispute until a few weeks later, but when he did, he left no doubt where his loyalties lied. He took out a full page newspaper ad praising Durocher.

He wrote: "Leo's is the manager and the 'Dump Durocher Clique' might as well give up. He is running the team, and if some of the players do not like it and lie down on the job, during the off-season we will see what we can do to find them happier homes." He added a P.S. "If we could only find more team players like Ernie Banks."

Ernie retired a few weeks later. Leo was gone by the middle of the next year. And the Cubs didn't register back-to-back winning seasons again for more than 30 years.