Hall of Fame Baseball

Jim Leyland watches batting practice before a spring training game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers in 2021. Leyland will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2024 after receiving 15 of 16 votes from a committee that voted on managers, executives and umpires. Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jim Leyland, who led the Florida Marlins to a World Series title in 1997 and won 1,769 regular-season games over 22 seasons as an entertaining and at-times crusty big league manager, was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame on Sunday.

Now 78, Leyland received 15 of 16 votes by the contemporary era committee for managers, executives and umpires. He becomes the 23rd manager in the hall.

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

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

Leyland managed Pittsburgh, Florida, Colorado and Detroit from 1986 to 2013.

He was a minor league catcher and occasional third baseman for the Detroit Tigers from 1965-70, never rising above Double-A and finishing with a .222 batting average, four homers and 102 RBI.

Advertisement

“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 a major league managerial career, taking over the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1986-96.

Honest, profane and constantly puffing on a cigarette, Leyland embodied the image of the prickly baseball veteran with a gruff but wise voice. During a career outside the major markets, he bristled at what he perceived as a lack of respect for his teams.

“It’s making me puke,″ he said in 1997. ”I’m sick and tired of hearing about New York and Atlanta and Baltimore.”

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

“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.”

Advertisement

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 Atlanta. The Pirates sank from there following the free-agent departures of Barry Bonds and ace pitcher Doug Drabek, and Leyland left after Pittsburgh’s fourth straight losing season in 1996. Five days following his last game, he chose the Marlins over the White Sox, Red Sox and Angels.

Florida won the title the next year in the franchise’s fifth season, the youngest 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, winning a pair of pennants.

Leyland’s teams finished first six times and went 1,769-1,728. He was voted Manager of the Year in 1990, 1992 and 2006, and he managed the U.S. to the 2017 World Baseball Classic championship, the Americans’ only title.

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.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.