Strenuously researched and studded with footnotes, Paul Dickson’s Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son is an unflinching portrait of a brilliant bastard. Mr. Dickson gives the devil his due and leaves no doubt why so many people could respect Durocher’s baseball genius and still hate his guts ... All of this contributed to the legend that Mr. Dickson has so adroitly researched, annotated and debunked. The authenticated Durocher turns out to be even more fascinating—and impressive, in a way—than the mythical one.
Dickson does a fair job of capturing the grit and glitz of a man whose idea of a doubleheader was a ballgame in the afternoon and a bender with his friend Frank Sinatra after dark. But there’s insufficient depth of insight here to provide a satisfying appreciation of the confounding Durocher.
...if the end-product is occasionally as dry as old newspaper clippings? No worries. Durocher’s life — feuding with opponents, teammates, writers, and commissioners; baiting umpires; punching mouthy fans; running with gamblers and gangsters, and the Hollywood stars who played them in the movies; burning his way through four marriages, including one to actress Larraine Day — is colorful enough for any three novels ... As Time magazine pointed out at the time, by lowering the boom without tangible cause, [Happy] Chandler had accomplished the seemingly impossible: turning Durocher into a sympathetic character. To his credit, Dickson doesn’t.