"Nice guys finish seventh"

Posted by ESC on April 16, 2004

In Reply to: "Nice guys finish last" posted by Brian from Shawnee on April 16, 2004

: : : Can anyone out there tell me the origin of this expression and other similar expressions? Thanks.

: : NICE GUYS FINISH LAST -- "Ruthless tactics succeed more than kindness. This statement is generally ascribed to baseball manager Leo Durocher, (1905-1991) whose fiery style earned him the nickname 'The Lip.'.He led three teams into the World Series - the 1941 Brooklyn Dodgers, who lost to the New York Yankees; the 1951 New York Giants, who lost to the Yankees; and the 1954 Giants, who swept the Cleveland Indians.(the idea) is an ancient one, 'More nice than wise' had made it into John Ray's proverb collection of 1670." From "Southpaws & Sunday Punches and other Sporting Expressions" by Christine Ammer (Penguin Books, New York, 1993).

: In Durocher's 1975 autobiography ("Nice Guys Finish Last", of course) he claims he was misquoted. The remark, or something similar, was made on July 6, 1946 when Durocher was managing the Brooklyn Dodgers. He made was referring to his crosstown rivals the New York Giants when (according to him) he said "Take a look at them. They're all nice guys, but they'll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last." He was quoted the next day by reporter Frank Graham of the New York Journal-American as "Nice guys finish last". Graham never took notes, and was reputed to have a photographic memory, which Durocher did not dispute. With Durocher and Graham in the dugout that day was Lou Effrat of the New York Times. Effrat quoted him as saying "Nice guys finish eighth".

: There's more controversy, too. In 1992 a man named Ralph Keyes wrote a book called "Nice Guys Finish Seventh" as a compilation of misquotes. But nobody says Durocher said that, either. The "seventh" version goes that Durocher was referring to the standings as of July 6 ("Why they're the nicest guys in the world! And where are they? In seventh place."). The Giants were in seventh place then, and they finished eighth that year (last place). But in the "seventh place" version Durocher is not offering a prediction, just an observation.

: Despite years of trying to clarify what he said, by the time his autobiography came out, he must have finally given in. How could the publisher call the book anything else? And the public was in agreement. Nice guys finish last. In chapter 1 ("I Come to Kill You") Durocher states that the quote is Bartlett's Familiar Quotations "right there on page 1068, between John Betjeman and W.H. Auden. Who the hell were Betjeman and Auden, anyway?" Well, who can name a quote by either of those guys?

Now I'm going to have to go buy that book.