I have just recently received an issue of Sport Magazine. This one came from an EBay auction and was the September 1969 issue featuring Leo Durocher, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams on the cover. At the time this issue was put together, it looked like the Cubs might be playing in the World Series. Unfortunately, shortly after this issue of Sport magazine hit the news stands, the Cubs went into a losing streak that ended up throwing them into 2nd place behind the Mets.
Sport magazine went out of business in 2000 but I remember the magazine as part of my youth. My father bought each issue at Hook’s Drugstore or Kroger’s Grocery store when it came out. I had to wait until he was done with it before it was my turn. I spent time reading about my heroes in baseball each month.
This 1969 issue is probably one that I never saw when I was younger. My father had died and I was newly married and away at Indiana University. It was the Vietnam War that was the hot topic on the IU campus. Serious students did not have time for such trivial things as pennant races. The General would arrive at IU after the 1971 season.
The report in Sport focused on Durocher’s managerial style. He questioned player’s abilities and commitment to create tension. Durocher believed that such an approach would either make a player better or show that he did not belong on Leo’s team. Whether one believes in Durocher’s approach or not it did seem to work. When he took over the reins of the team in 1966, the Cubs were a last place team with a record of 59 wins and 103 losses. By 1969, Durocher had the team in first place bringing hopes of a World Series to Cubs fans. From 1967 through 1972, the Cubs won 515 while losing only 449. This was a winning percentage of .534.
The article has a number of great stories about the 1969 Cubs and how Durocher’s firm hand was guiding the team. There are also a few great pictures like this one of Durocher in the Cubs dugout.