August 15, 2012
The Platoon Advantage
At What Price Revolution
OK, stop me if you've heard this before:
A controversial and attention-seeking manager of a major market team antagonizes a popular leader on a team that was expecting to contend for the pennant and faces a revolt in the clubhouse, resulting in team meetings, front office involvment, and bold pronouncements. And the whole drama plays out in the press.
It may sound familiar, thanks to Bobby Valentine's ongoing troubles with the stars of his Red Sox, but I'm actually talking about the 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers, a team coming off of consecutive 100-win seasons under manager Leo Durocher.
On July 9, Bobo (Buck) Newsom came into the dugout after giving up four runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and got on catcher Bobby Bragan for dropping a third strike and allowing a batter to reach. He then argued with Durocher about his pitch selection to Vince DiMaggio. After the game, Durocher announced that he was suspending Newsom for three days.
One reporter apparently overheard Durocher complaining to coach Hugh Casey about Newsom's treatment of Bragan, and assumed that he'd discovered the cause. Durocher siding with Bragan sent the Dodgers into a tizzy, and they all voted to strike at Newsom's punishment. Durocher was blindsided. "[Arky] Vaughan came up to me," he said, "handed me his uniform, and said, 'Well, here's my uniform. You can do with it what you want.'" Durocher interpreted that as Vaughan quitting the team and told him he was out.
Durocher called a quick meeting of players AND reporters, and declared the story "false and that the Bragan incident had nothing whatever to do with Newsom's three-day suspension.... The manager said Newsom 'seemed to think he had become Judge Landis, Mr. Baseball himself,' and that Bobo had persistently ignored his instructions on how certain batsmen should be pitched.... 'He virtually told me I was a liar. Nobody can talk to me like that as long as I'm managing the club--and that goes for all the players.'"