FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Leo Durocher, embittered by his failure to be elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, told a close friend two weeks ago that he had instructed his lawyer to refuse his induction if he were chosen posthumously.
"It was the one thing that bothered Leo right to the end," said Buzzie Bavasi, the longtime baseball executive who went to work in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1938, when Durocher was shortstop and a year away from becoming player-manager.
"He didn't want to go in [to the Hall] after he died," Bavasi said in a telephone interview last night. "He told me just two weeks ago that he'd instructed his lawyer not to accept it if they put him in after he was gone. He was so mad at the world.
"I think he said it in a fit of anger. I can't believe he meant it, but he said it."
In the nine years that Durocher was eligible for the Hall of Fame through voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America, he never received more than 28 votes. But three times in the last five years, he's barely missed being selected in balloting by the Veterans' Committee. There are 21 members on that voting body, comprised of former players, writers, broadcasters, and executives, including Bavasi.
"He's missed by one vote twice, including last year, and two votes another time," Bavasi said. "It's just a shame. It makes me sick to my stomach."
That perceived Hall slight, Bavasi said, is the reason Durocher stopped giving interviews. When Ken Burns, the noted documentary film maker ("The Civil War") approached Bavasi recently about a project he's doing on baseball, Bavasi sent him to Durocher. When Burns called last week, Bavasi said, Durocher wouldn't talk to him. "He thought he was a reporter," Bavasi said.
Durocher's 2,010 victories rank him sixth among managers. It was suggested to Bavasi that now, after his death, Durocher would receive the honor that so long eluded him.
"I hope not," Bavasi said. "It'd kill me if he did. I worked so hard to get him, I can't accept the old man had to die for people to see the light."