“Nice guys finish last” was the title of Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher’s article in the April 1948 Cosmopolitan and also the title of his 1975 autobiography. The Brooklyn Dodgers were playing the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds on July 5, 1946. “The nice guys are all over there…in last place,” Durocher was quoted as saying in the following day’s New York (NY) Journal-American. Journal-American sportswriter Frank Graham (1893-1965) wrote about the circumstance of the quotation in his book, The New York Giants: An Informal History (1952).
The quotation—popularized as “nice guys finish last”—has extended use beyond sports and means that “nice guys” get taken advantage of and get trampled over; one has to be assertive to get to the top.
“Tough Guys Made Great Managers” by Dick Young in the Sunday News (New York, NY) on March 3, 1946, about “nice guy” New York Giants manager Mel Ott (1909-1958), provides some context for Leo Durocher’s remarks.
Wikipedia: Nice guy
Nice guy is a term in the general public discourse and in popular culture describing an adult or teenage male with friendly yet unassertive personality traits in the context of a relationship with a woman.
The “nice guys finish last” view
A common aphorism is that “nice guys finish last.” The phrase is based on a quote by baseball manager Leo Durocher in 1946, which was then condensed by journalists. The original quote by Durocher was “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.” (1946 July 6), about the 1946 New York Giants – seventh place was last place in the National League; many variants appear in later works, including Durocher’s autobiography, Nice Guys Finish Last.
Though this is the origin of the phrase, Durocher’s remark was specific to the context of baseball, and indeed to the context of that set of players, rather than intended as generally applicable to male/female relationship dynamics or in any other context and his allegation of a cause-and-effect relationship between being nice and finishing last was at most merely implicit – it can also be interpreted as “Nice guys, but they will finish last”, rather than “all nice guys finish last”.
Wikipedia: Leo Durocher
Leo Ernest Durocher (July 27, 1905 – October 7, 1991), nicknamed Leo the Lip, was an American infielder and manager in Major League Baseball. Upon his retirement, he ranked fifth all-time among managers with 2,009 career victories, second only to John McGraw in National League history. Durocher still ranks tenth in career wins by a manager. A controversial and outspoken character, Durocher’s career was dogged by clashes with authority, umpires (his 95 career ejections as a manager trailed only McGraw when he retired, and still rank fourth on the all-time list), and the press.
Nice guys finish last
The saying “nice guys finish last” is a condensation by journalists of a quotation by Durocher – he did not originally say this form himself, though it has often been attributed to him, and he did appropriate it as his own. The original quotation was “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.” (1946 July 6), about the 1946 New York Giants – seventh place was last place in the National League. This was shortly afterwards rendered as “‘Nice Guys’ Wind Up in Last Place, Scoffs Lippy”, thence its present form.
3 March 1946, Sunday News (New York, NY), “Ott Faces Challenge of Managing Skill” by Dick Young, pg. 34, col. 1:
One of the more significant statements to come out of all the hogwash and hullabaloo of Spring training camps this year was Danny Gardella’s remark concerning the managerial abilities of Mel Ott. Spouted the free-lance philosopher as he jumped the Giants to join the “outlaw” Mexican League: “Mel is a nice fellow, but he doesn’t understand human nature well enough to be a successful manager.
Tough Guys Made Great Managers
Mel Ott seems to be following the footsteps of “nice guys” who proved disappointing managers—like Pie Traymor of the Pirates and Freddie Fitzsimmons of the Phils. Testy taskmasters who achieved excellent results include Brooklyn’s Lippy Durocher and Ott’s predecessors, John McGraw and Bill Terry.
8 July 1946, Ottawa (ON) Journal, “Graham’s Corner” by Frank Graham, pg. 17, cols. 1-2:
“A nice guy!” he (Leo Durocher—ed.) yelled. “A nice guy! I’ve been around in baseball a long time and I’ve known a lot of nice guys. But I never saw a nice guy who was any good when you needed him.”
“Nice guys! I’m not a nice guy—and I’m in first place.”
He waved a hand toward the Giants’ dugout.
“The nice guys over there are in last place.”
He waved toward the Giants’ dugout again.
“The nice guys are all over there,” he said. “In last place.”
13 July 1946, Pittsburgh (PA) Sun-Telegraph, “Sports” by Harry Keck, pg. 6, col. 1:
Durocher Doesn’t Like ‘Nice Guys’
Frankie Graham, the author, has done what amounts to a penetrating character sketch of Leo Durocher, manager of the Dodgers, in the Hearst New York Journal-American in which he describes a scene on the bench at the Polo Grounds as the Dodgers prepared to battle the Giants in a recent night game.
Somebody asked Leo why he didn’t cut out his squawking, and Leo barked:
“A nice guy! A nice guy! I’ve been around baseball a long time and I’ve known a lot of nice guys. But I never saw a nice guy who was any good when you needed him. Go up to one of these nice guys some time when you need a hundred to get you out of a jam and he’ll always give you that ‘Sorry, pal, I’d like to helpo you, but things are not going so well at the ranch’ business.
“I’ll take the guys who ain’t nice. The guys who would put you in a cement mixer if they felt like it. But you get in a jam and you don’t have to go to them. They’ll come looking for you and say, ‘How much do you need?’”
Then, pointing to the Giants’ bench, Leo continued:
“Nice guys! Look over there. Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any of the other Giants? Why, they’re the nicest guys in the world. And where ar they? In last place!”
Now maybe you know why Leo is a hard-boiled, umpire-fighting sulphur-tongued so-and-so. he thinks that’s the only way to be a top guy. And his record proves that he’s made it pay off.
27 August 1946, Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, “Plain Dealing” by Gordon Cobbledick, pg. 14, col. 7:
Durocher Says Nice Guys Do Not Win Pennants
Stanky can’t hit, can’t throw and can’t run, but it is said that he would cheerfully cut the legs off his brother to score an important run, and that is the Durocher style. Leo says nice guys don’t win pennants—a statement for which he has been taken to task by no less an authority than Connie Mack. Connie has won more pennants than any other manager now active, and he says he won them with gentlemen.
OCLC WorldCat record
Nice guys finish last
Author: Leo Durocher
Publisher: [New York?] : Hearst Magazines, Inc. ;  ©1948
Edition/Format: Book : English
1 April 1948, Gettysburg (PA) Times, pg. 7, col. 3 classified ad:
WILL LIPPY ZIPPER HIS LIP? Read the answer in Leo Durocher’s article, “Nice Guys Finish Last” in the April Cosmopolitan, on sale at newsstands tomorrow morning.
Google News Archive
23 May 1948, Tuscaloosa (AL) News, “Leo Tells ‘Whys’ Of Walker Trade” by Oscar Fraley (United Press Sports Writer), pg. 16, col. 5:
One of Lippy Leo’s pet lines is that “nice guys finish last.”
The New York Giants:
An Informal History
By Frank Graham
New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
“Nice Guys Finish Last”
THIS was the night of July 5, 1946. The Giants were playing the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds. In the Dodgers’ dugout before the game, Red Barber was needling Leo Durocher about the home runs the Giants had hit .the day before.
“Home runs!” Leo said. “Some home runs! Line drives and pop flies that would have been caught on a bigger field! That’s what they were!”
“Why don’t you admit they were real home runs?” Red asked. “Why don’t you be a nice guy for a change?”
Leo had been reclining on the bench. Now he leaped to his feet.
“A nice guy!” he yelled. “A nice guy! I been around baseball for a long time and I’ve known a lot of nice guys.”
He walked up and down the dugout, then whirled and pointed toward the Giants’ dugout.
“Nice guys!” he said. “Look over there. Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any of the other Giants? Why, they’re the nicest guys in the world! And where are they? In last place!”
He walked up and down again, eating himself on the chest.
“Nice guys! I’m not a nice guy—and I’m in first place. Nobody helped me to get there either, except the guys on this ball club and they ain’t nice guys! There wasn’t anybody in this league helped me to get up there. They saw me coming up and they—”
He waved a hand toward the Giant dugout.
“The nice guys are over there in last place. Well, let them come and get me!”
OCLC WorldCat record
Nice guys finish last,
Author: Leo Durocher; Edward Linn
Publisher: New York, Simon and Schuster 
Edition/Format: Book : English
OCLC WorldCat record
“Nice guys finish seventh” : false phrases, spurious sayings, and familiar misquotations
Author: Ralph Keyes
Publisher: New York, NY : HarperCollinsPublishers, ©1992.
Edition/Format: Book : English : 1st ed
Leo Durocher is best remembered for saying, “Nice guys finish last.” He never said it. What the Brooklyn Dodgers’ manager did say, before a 1946 game with the New York Giants, was: “The nice guys are all over there. In seventh place.” Durocher’s words lacked pop. Sportswriters perked them up, and gave America one of its most familiar misquotations. Ralph Keyes points out in “Nice Guys Finish Seventh” that many of
The Yale Book of Quotations
By Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
U.S. baseball manager, 1906-1991
[Remark about New York Giants baseball team, 6 July 1946:] The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.
Quoted in N.Y. Journal-American, 7 July 1946. Ralph Keyes reports in
that, when this newspaper column “was reprinted in Baseball Digest that fall, Durocher’s reference to nice guys finishing in ‘seventh place’ had been changed to ‘last place.’...Before long Leo’s credo was bumper-stickered into ‘Nice guys finish last.’” The shift may have taken place even earlier, given an article in Sporting News, 17 July 1946, headlined, “Nice Guys’ Wind Up in Last Place, Scoffs Lippy.”