On March 23, the Daily Diamond (“DD”), that immovable vehicle heralding the triumph of essentia over trivia, unloaded its usual loaded, diurnal dilemma in its infernally innocent manner (even as it continued to archive answers in its insatiable quest for questions!), querying Coders concerning two managers who had married actresses (an admittedly rare and yet still not illegal enjoinment):
“Two managers married actresses who starred (one on stage, one on screen) with Gregory Peck. More importantly baseball-wise, they both managed future, winning World Series managers! Each of our subjects furnished our culture with an immortal quote—the first, ‘Nice guys finish last!’ and the second, ‘If I had a little humility, I’d be perfect.’ Who are they (the managers, not the actresses!)?”
In honor of Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch (and lawyerly presentation in general), the four parties evidentially fulfilled the requisite stipulations of the ascertained entreaty, the resultant identities heretofore being the former and future co-respondents, messrs. Durocher and Turner.
The pinpointing of those unidentified, trying objects of attention literally left, by that grandiose inquisitor we call “The DD,” more questions than answers, as well as the tempting opportunity to answer the question without answering each question within. However, today’s blog gives us the chance, before the serious games begin, to leisurely expand upon the missing names of those fleetingly anonymous idle wheels that powered our simple solution in the first place, and to find a last bit of off-season fun in the baseball fundament. Or to paraphrase my new mayor (O Come, Emanuel!), the absence of a crisis is the worst thing to waste! So let’s fill in those bountiful blanks before one more fine and final exhibition. Haven’t we lived following season? Isn’t the secret to baseball in the last game seen?
For now, most importantly, we ask who are these wives in (Daily Diamond) question? Laraine Day’s marriage to Leo Durocher was perhaps the final straw for the fuming “Happy” Chandler, once and future Kentucky governor and successor to commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Allegations from Day’s ex-husband about Leo’s “wife-stealing,” coupled with rampant rumors of unsavory gambling and Hollywood associates, prompted Chandler to suspend Dodger leader Durocher for the entire 1947 season (and the ensuing Jackie Robinson debut, final game of Hank Greenberg, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the birth of yours truly!).
Laraine not only starred with Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and John Wayne (you don’t need to name the movies!), but also co-starred with Gregory Peck in the national tour of “Angel Street.” Although when she married Leo she knew nothing of baseball, by the time he moved on to his lone World Series success with the ’54 Giants, she had written a book called Day with the Giants (also the name of her daily player-interview show in New York) and was called the “First Lady of Baseball!”
Jane Fonda married media magnate Ted Turner and could be seen nationally doing the controversial “tomahawk chop” with Turner during the Braves’ yearly post-season appearances in the early ‘90s. Ending another loose end, she was, of course, by this time an Oscar winner and movie superstar (costarring with the ubiquitous Peck in “Old Gringo”), yet in the shadow of her maverick husband.
Speaking of Turner, the managerial career referred to in our question in question was, like Durocher’s, shortened by executive edict (NL President’s Chub Feeney’s fiat). In 1977, Brave owner Turner, after stating, “Managing isn’t that difficult: you just have to score more runs than the other guy,” banished manager Dave Bristol, and took over for one game (thanks to Feeney), a seventeenth consecutive Brave loss, 2-1 to Pittsburgh, dropping future Hall of Famer and 300 game winner Phil Niekro’s record to 0-7 (Durocher, in this case, was bested by Turner–in 24 years of managing, he never had a 300 gamer!)
Moreover, when Turner penciled in utility outfielder Cito Gaston’s name in the lineup, no one could know he was managing that literally singular day a future two-time World Series champion manager (who would defeat Turner’s Braves in the ’92 Fall Classic!), retiring only last season, and thereby filling in another intriguing piece of the 3/23 “DD” puzzle.
And what of the last unanswered reference posed in the question? Which future skipper who would helm a World Series winner was mentored by “the Lip?” (O, those nicknames! Remember “The Brat,” Eddie Stanky, jumping on Leo’s back after Bobby “The Flying Scot’s” famous “shot heard round the world?”) As Merlin told King Arthur, and I must tell myself, “Think back Wart!” A young catcher who broke in under Durocher in 1946 was moved to first base by Leo in 1948 (after all, another catcher named Campanella had arrived in Brooklyn!). The new first baseman was none other than the great Gil Hodges, whose baseball success was capped over 20 years later at the expense of his tutor Durocher. Who can forget Hodges’ “Miracle Mets” overtaking Leo’s beloved Cubbies down the stretch in 1969, and proceeding to win it all!
With all now explicable, we can finally sleep (or better, in the words of Cole Porter, “Wake up and dream!”). Our question of managers marrying actresses, without mentioning divorces, is now fully answered.
In our foolhardy way, we’ve gone well beyond Jeopardy! And today’s suggestion? Don’t forget to answer the questions after answering the question!
Again, agon. Ever closer, I wish the most hopeful opener for every other one . . . .