The 1947 season was a watershed one for both Durocher and the Dodgers. It was the year that Jackie Robinson, the first black player in the modern major leagues, was called up to the Brooklyn club. As former Dodger broadcaster Red Barber has noted in his book 1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball, the Dodgers' general manager, Branch Rickey, knew that he could count on Durocher's support in calling up Robinson. "Rickey knew Durocher would fight for Robinson," Barber wrote. "… The rest of the league would be against the black man. Leo relished such a fight."
During spring training in 1947, the Dodgers were playing an exhibition series in Panama. Durocher was alerted to a petition that had been drawn up by a group of Dodger players who were opposed to the call-up of Robinson and who, refusing to play with Robinson because of his race, indicated they would rather be traded. Durocher said he would play an elephant "if he can do the job" and that anyone who did not want play with Robinson could take off his uniform and leave the team, putting an end to the uprising. "This fellow is a great ballplayer," Durocher added. "He's going to win pennants for us. He's going to put money in your pockets and money in mine."