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Where Does The Phrase "Nice Guys Finish Last" Come From?

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"Nice guys finish last" is not from some pickup artist. Although it’s been co-opted as a justification for certain men’s bad behavior and a popular lament (or is it a humblebrag?) to describe others' lack of prospects, the term originally was about finishing last in the baseball standings.

The New York Times obituary for Leo Durocher remembers him as "perhaps major league baseball's best example of the win-at-all-costs manager, one who viewed the game not as a challenging pastime for talented athletes but as a sports relative of guerilla warfare...Durocher always placed heavy reliance on physical and psychological intimidation of the enemy, the army of foes that, to him, included the umpiring crews. To him, base hits, hook slides and sharp-breaking curveballs were important, but equally so were sharp spikes, beanballs and umpire-baiting." So, suffice to say, he was not a nice guy.

Durocher spent 24 years as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Chicago Cubs, and Houston Astros after a mediocre 17-season career as an infielder. It was while he was managing the Dodgers in 1946 that he uttered the eminently quotable phrase.

He was evidently proud of his contribution to our popular lexicon, even going so far as to name his 1975 autobiography Nice Guys Finish Last. In it, and in an excerpt published on the University of Chicago website, he recounts the tale:

The Nice Guys Finish Last line came about because of Eddie Stanky too. And wholly by accident. I’m not going to back away from it though. It has got me into Bartlett’s Quotations— page 1059, between John Betjeman and Wystan Hugh Auden—and will be remembered long after I have been forgotten. Just who the hell were Betjeman and Auden anyway?

It came about during batting practice at the Polo Grounds, while I was managing the Dodgers. I was sitting in the dugout with Frank Graham of the old Journal-American, and several other newspapermen, having one of those freewheeling bull sessions. Frankie pointed to Eddie Stanky in the batting cage and said, very quietly, “Leo, what makes you like this fellow so much? Why are you so crazy about this fellow?”

I started by quoting the famous Rickey statement: “He can’t hit, he can’t run, he can’t field, he can’t throw. He can’t do a goddamn thing, Frank—but beat you.” He might not have as much ability as some of the other players, I said, but every day you got 100 percent from him and he was trying to give you 125 percent. “Sure, they call him the Brat and the Mobile Muskrat and all of that,” I was saying, and just at that point, the Giants, led by Mel Ott, began to come out of their dugout to take their warm-up. Without missing a beat, I said, “Take a look at that Number Four there. A nicer guy never drew breath than that man there.” I called off his players’ names as they came marching up the steps behind him, “Walker Cooper, Mize, Marshall, Kerr, Gordon, Thomson. Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last.”

It’s almost all true. Durocher may have given himself just a little too much credit in coming up with the sort of saying that would have staying power. In a 1993 biography of the fiery manager entitled The Lip, Gerald Eskenazi explains how newspaper headline writers were responsible for the pithiness of the phrase, but the sentiment was definitely all Durocher.

What he really said of Giants' manager Mel Ott, Eskenazi posits based on contemporary claims, was, "Do you know a nicer guy in the world than Mel Ott? He's a nice guy. In last place. Where am I? In first place. I'm in first place. The nice guys are over there in last place, not in this dugout."

But if we're going to nit-pick there's one more particular to address. According to The Yale Book of Quotations, which cites a New York Journal-American article from July 7, 1946, what Durocher actually said was, "The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place." At the time, seventh place would have technically been second-to-last in the eight-team National League. The nice-but-hapless Giants ended up finishing the season in honest-to-goodness last place and when the article was reprinted that fall in Baseball Digest the crucial switch from "seventh" to "last" was made.

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The First High Five Recorded in the History of Sports
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We don’t quite know who invented the high five—but we can pinpoint the moment it became inextricably linked with sports, which the short documentary The High Five explores below.

On October 2, 1977, Los Angeles Dodgers leftfielder Dusty Baker scored his 30th home run, making the team the first in history to have four players—Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, and Reggie Smith—with at least 30 homers under each of their belts. Fellow outfielder Glenn Burke was so overwhelmed with joy and pride, he raised his arm and slapped his flat palm against the victorious athlete’s own palm. The moment transformed Baker and Burke into legends.

Sadly, the latter player faced hard times ahead: Burke was gay, and it’s believed that his sexuality prompted team officials to trade him to the Oakland A's the following year. In Oakland, Burke clashed with team manager Billy Martin, then retired early from baseball. Today, Burke is remembered for his charisma and talent—and for transforming a simple gesture into a universal symbol. “To think his energy and personality was the origin of that, that’s a pretty good legacy,” sportswriter Lyle Spencer says in the film.

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11 Outrageous Ballpark Foods
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Major League ballpark food has gone way beyond peanuts, Cracker Jacks, and the all-American hot dog. Now you can enjoy full meals, international cuisine, and eye-popping, gut-busting specialty dishes concocted for maximum publicity. Let's sample some of the outrageous dishes available at baseball games this year.

1. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES // TRIPLE TRIPLE BURGER

Wayback Burger has the ultimate meat-lover's burger at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Watch the Phillies while eating a Triple Triple Burger with nine beef patties and nine slices of cheese. And some veggies, if you can find them.

2. NEW YORK METS // BACON S'MORES ON A STICK

First seen in 2015, Pig Guy still offers S‘mores Bacon on a Stick at Citi Field. That's a slice of thick bacon dipped in marshmallow, chocolate, and graham cracker crumbs …on a stick. If you so choose, there are other toppings available for your bacon on a stick, like Sriracha maple glaze or salted caramel.

3. SEATTLE MARINERS // OAXACAN CHAPULINES

Served by Edgar's Cantina, the authentic Oaxacan chapulines debuting this year at Safeco Field in Seattle are "toasted grasshoppers with chile-lime salt seasoning." [PDF] They sold out on opening day, and the ballpark moved more grasshoppers in three games than Edgar's home restaurant Poquitos serves in a year!

4. SEATTLE MARINERS // MADE-TO-ORDER ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

Not in the mood for toasted grasshoppers? There are plenty of sweet treats available at Safeco Field in Seattle, including the made-to-order deluxe frozen custard cookie sandwiches from Frozen Rope Sandwich Company. As you can see, they come with extras.

5. COLORADO ROCKIES // ROCKY MOUNTAIN OYSTERS

In case you don't know what Rocky Mountain oysters are, they're bull testicles that are sliced and deep-fried. Not only are they a huge hit throughout Colorado, they've been a staple at Rockies games for 20 years.

6. TEXAS RANGERS // TEXAS SNOWBALL

New for 2017, you'll be able to try the Texas Snowballs at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. It's made of chopped brisket and barbecue sauce rolled into a ball and covered with funnel cake batter. It is then deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Is it an entree or a dessert? That's your decision.

7. TEXAS RANGERS // CHOOMONGOUS

Choomongous is both a sandwich and a description. This staple at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, is a 24-inch Korean beef sandwich that was crafted in 2014 in honor of Texas Ranger outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. The sandwich is stuffed with Korean-spiced beef, spicy slaw, and Sriracha-infused mayo. Your best advice is to split it with a friend or two.

8. HOUSTON ASTROS // CHICKEN AND WAFFLE CONE

Watch baseball at Minute Maid Park and use only one hand to eat a full dinner. The Chicken and Waffle Cone puts fried chicken fingers and mashed potatoes inside a large waffle cone with honey-mustard sauce on top. The fan favorite is in its third year of satisfying hungry Astros fans.

9. MILWAUKEE BREWERS // INSIDE THE PARK NACHOS

Miller Park in Milwaukee is the home of Inside the Park Nachos, which is basically taco meat on a stick that is rolled in crushed Doritos, fried, and served with cheese sauce, sour cream, and salsa.

10. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS // CHURRO DOG 2.0

Chase Field in Phoenix first served the Churro Dog in 2015. This is not the ballpark hot dog you're used to, but an 1100-calorie dessert. The "dog" is a cinnamon churro, the "bun" is a split Long John donut, and the toppings are frozen yogurt, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and whipped cream. For 2017, the Churro Dog 2.0 comes dressed up in Oreos! The churro is rolled in crushed Oreo cookies, strawberry topping replaces the caramel, and then a generous helping of more Oreo crumbs is sprinkled on top.

11. MINNESOTA TWINS // TRIPLE SAUSAGE BLOODY MARY

Target Field is offering a new Bloody Mary during Twins games. Hrbek's Pub supplies the new Triple Sausage Bloody Mary, a Bloody Mary with deluxe garnishes including three varieties of sausage (brat, Polish, and andouille), in addition to cheese cubes, peppers, and various fruits and vegetables. You can get a variation with a hamburger garnish if you like!

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