Durocher Again Guest of Raft

Westbrook Pegler

Press and Sun-Bulletin/December 12, 1946

With considerable surprise I saw by Miss Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood column one recent day that Leo Durocher, the manager of the Brooklyn ball club, again was a houseguest in California of his friend, George Raft, the moving picture actor-gangster and member in good standing of the underworld of  Hollywood and Broadway. 

I was surprised, because only a few days before I learned on excellent authority that when Mr. Durocher conferred with Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn baseball firm, in Columbus, Ohio, preliminary to Mr. Durocher’s retention as the team manager for 1947, he promised Mr. Rickey that he would divorce himself from his old associations including Mr. Raft and Mr. Raft’s dear friend Bugsy Siegal. 

Bugsy is a blue-book boy, meaning that he is listed in the social register of the Bureau of Narcotics of the Treasury. Mr. Rickey has an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Raft, and only Monday he told me that in 1947 Mr. Raft will be excluded not only from Mr. Durocher’s dressing room and the dressing rooms of the Brooklyn players but from the Brooklyn ballpark as well.

Enlarging on Mr. Durocher’s social problems, it will be recalled that Mr. Durocher loaned his New York apartment to Raft for a dicing party in which a chump named Martin Shurin lost $18,500 to Mr. Raft, according to the early returns. Reduced to $13,500 in Mr. Shurin’s closing statement to the New York district attorney, on 13 straight passes by Mr. Raft, all fours and tens and most of them “the hard way,” a truly miraculous streak of luck, if that was what it was. 

Mr. Shurin later was told by the wife of one of his fellow-guests at the dicing that her husband had conspired with others to set a trap for him and that the dice used in the operation contained unconventional markings which would have made it merely easy for the dicer to sling fours and tens in sets of twos and fives all night long, but very difficult for him to throw anything else. 

TWO DAYS AFTER Miss Hopper reported that Mr. Durocher again was a guest of Mr. Raft in a household much frequented by gangsters, Mr. Rickey and Mr. Durocher met the baseball writers in one of those formal press conferences in Brooklyn to announce that Mr. Durocher had signed his 1947 contract. The impression was given that Mr. Rickey had exacted no promises or assurances. 

That version is incorrect, for the fact is that Mr. Rickey discussed little else in the Columbus meeting, and that Mr. Durocher, as a condition prior to the actual negotiations as to his salary and other terms, promised to keep out of questionable company. 

Mr. Rickey said Mr. Durocher was entirely honest in baseball matters and would not knowingly give information to gangsters on which they might arrange betting coups, but “dumb as hell when it comes to figuring the consequences of an association.”

“HE HAS LINED up with us 100 per cent,” Mr. Rickey said, meaning that Mr. Durocher had promised to avoid the appearances of evil. As an old baseball man, Mr. Rickey knows many angles, known also to the criminal underworld, by which a manager who is “dumb as hell” that way could give underworld companions a strong betting advantage through advance information without any guilty intent.

Although Mr. Rickey says Mr. Raft has been barred from the Dodgers’ or Bums’ dressing-rooms and from Ebbets Field, that does not mean, of course, that Mr. Raft is socially undesirable everywhere else in baseball. At one of the Boston games of the late World Series he accompanied Larry MacPhail, the business executive of the New York Yankees, and Joe Di Maggio. 

If Miss Hopper was correctly informed in her report of the renewed association of Mr. Durocher with Mr. Raft, then Mr. Durocher is fellowshipping in the off-season with a man whom his employer, patron, spiritual guardian and boss has decided to exclude in season for the good of the game. 

HOWEVER, that need not imply serious consequences just yet. There is plenty of time. There is, of course, apprehension of interesting consequences from a direct and flagrant line of association between professional baseball, once the cleanest of professional sports, and the underworld and its gambling syndicates, for the first time since the fake World Series of 1919.

There has been a change of atmosphere in baseball since Judge Landis died. Your nose knows.  


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