In this handwritten letter Jocko Conlan recalls the memorable kicking incident with the fiery Leo Durocher in of April, 1961. He also writes about the man who hired him at the start of his umpiring career, his mentor Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem. Toward the end he briefly mentions fellow Cooperstown mediator Billy Evans.
Conlan and Durocher had a long-running feud that boiled over in the fourth inning of a game between the Pirates and the Dodgers for whom Durocher was coaching. Los Angeles first baseman Norm Larker hit a popup that bounced foul along up the line along first. Dodger manager Walt Alston argued with Conlan that Pittsburgh catcher Hal Smith touched the ball before it went foul.
As Alston returned to the dugout, Conlan walked over and ejected Durocher, saying the Dodger coach had tossed a towel onto the field. Durocher stormed toward Conlan to confront him. After kicking dirt onto the umpire, Durocher elevated his game and kicked Conlan on the shin. Incensed but unhurt by the blow by virtue of his shin guards, Conlan returned fire, kicking The Lip.
The two exchanged another round of kicks before Durocher left the field having taken the worst of the exchange.
In this letter Conlan writes, “I’ve had a lot of excitement on the field and enjoyed it. Durocher excitement should never have happened. It was a foul ball and he was there only to show off.”
Further evidence of the ill-will is seen as Conlan closes the topic, “Why talk about him?”
Conlan got his start as an umpire after his playing career ended when the National League offered him a job for the 1941 season. Bill Klem was the supervisor of the NL arbiters at the time. Klem quickly took Conlan under his wing becoming his mentor and friend.
In the letter Conlan writes, “I’m glad you put me in with Klem whom I broke in with. He was the greatest of us all.”
Conlan also mentions Billy Evans, another Cooperstown umpire. “Evans was great and a fine man.”
Conlan enjoyed a 25-year umpiring career, officiating five World Series, six All Star games, and four NL playoffs.
Billy Evans,Cornell grad
Great source for being able to relive baseball as a kid growing up in Jersey in the 50’s Bravo