Baseball Hall of Fame will induct Jim Leyland as 23rd manager

AP file photo by Jose Suarez / Former MLB manager Jim Leyland, who spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers from 1986 to 2013, was elected Sunday to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
AP file photo by Jose Suarez / Former MLB manager Jim Leyland, who spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers from 1986 to 2013, was elected Sunday to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

NASHVILLE — Jim Leyland left his living room in Thornburg, Pennsylvania, and had gone upstairs to lie down, convinced the call to Cooperstown wasn't coming.

"They had told us it would be between 6:30 and 7:15," he said, "but I thought when I didn't get it by a quarter to 7, it wasn't going to happen, so I went up just to rest a minute, kind of get my thoughts together."

Just then, as son Pat arrived upstairs, the phone rang. Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was on the line.

Leyland had been voted in, two weeks shy of his 79th birthday.

"There was definitely a tear in my eye," he said.

An entertaining and sometimes crusty manager who led the Florida Marlins to a World Series title in 1997 and won 1,769 regular-season games over 22 seasons, Leyland received 15 of 16 votes Sunday from the contemporary era committee for managers, executives and umpires. He becomes the 23rd manager in the Hall of Fame and will be inducted next summer in Cooperstown, New York.

Honest, profane and constantly puffing on a cigarette, Leyland embodied the image of the prickly baseball veteran with a gruff but wise voice. He is 18th on the career list for MLB manager wins but is second behind Joe McCarthy among those who never played in the majors. He also was ejected 73 times, tied with Clark Griffith for 10th in Major League Baseball history.

Leyland's players included Barry Bonds, Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, Gary Sheffield, Justin Verlander and Larry Walker.

"I think young people, young players are searching for discipline," Leyland said. "So we all have our insecurities and I think even sometimes players do, even though they're great players. And I think that they're always looking for that leadership. I tried to impress on them what it was to be a professional and how tough this game is to play. And I also told them almost every day how good they were."

Former player and manager Lou Piniella fell one vote short for the second time after also getting 11 in 2018. Former player, broadcaster and National League president Bill White was two shy.

Managers Cito Gaston and Davey Johnson, umpires Ed Montague and Joe West, and general manager Hank Peters all received fewer than five votes.

In addition to his time with the Marlins, Leyland had stints managing the Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates 1986 to 2013. His July 21 induction will take place with players voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, whose balloting will be announced on Jan. 23.

José Bautista, Adrián Beltré, Matt Holliday, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley and David Wright are among the players eligible for the BBWAA ballot for the first time in the current vote. Holdovers include Todd Helton, who fell 11 votes short this year, and Billy Wagner, who was 27 shy.

Leyland grew up in Perrysburg, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo. He was a minor league catcher and occasional third baseman in the Tigers' organization from 1965-70, never rising above Double-A and finishing with a .222 batting average, four home runs and 102 RBIs.

"Being not a very good player myself, I realized how hard it was to play the game," he said.

Leyland coached in the Tigers' minor league system, then started managing with Bristol of the Appalachian Rookie League in 1971. After 11 seasons as a minor league manager, he left the Tigers to serve as Tony La Russa's third base coach with the Chicago White Sox from 1982-85, then embarked on an MLB managerial career by leading the Pirates from 1986-96.

The Pittsburgh Press was said to have run a headline: "Jim Who?"

"Yeah, it was `Jim Who?' when I got here and, you know, I'm still here," Leyland said. "At least people know me a little better than they did when I first got here."

Pittsburgh got within one out of a World Series trip in 1992 before Francisco Cabrera's two-run single in Game 7 won the NL pennant for the Atlanta Braves. The Pirates sank from there after the departures of Bonds and ace pitcher Doug Drabek as free agents, and Leyland left after Pittsburgh's fourth straight losing season in 1996. Five days after his last game, he chose the Marlins over the White Sox, Boston Red Sox and California Angels.

Florida won the title the next year in the franchise's fifth season, the fastest expansion team to earn a championship at the time. But the Marlins sold off veterans and tumbled to 54-108 in 1998, and Leyland left for the Rockies. He quit after one season, saying he lacked the needed passion, and worked as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I did a lousy job my last year of managing,″ Leyland said then. "I stunk because I was burned out. When I left there, I sincerely believed that I would not manage again. ... I always missed the competition, but the last couple of years — and this stuck in my craw a little bit — I did not want my managerial career to end like that."

He replaced Alan Trammell as Tigers manager ahead of the 2006 season and stayed through 2013.

Leyland's teams finished first six times and went 1,769-1,728. He won American League pennants in 2006, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in a World Series that went five games, and 2012, getting swept by the San Francisco Giants. Leyland was voted manager of the year twice in the NL (1990, 1992) and once in the AL (2006), and he managed the U.S. to the 2017 World Baseball Classic championship, the Americans' only title in the event.

Now he's alongside the elite.

"It's the final stop," Leyland said. "To land there in Cooperstown, it doesn't get any better than that. I mean, that's the ultimate. I certainly never thought it was going to happen. Most people probably don't. But it did, and I'm sure I'm going to enjoy it."

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