Leyland, a three-time Manager of the Year award winner, also talks about managing former NL MVP Barry Bonds, guiding the Florida Marlins to the club’s first World Championship in 1997 and taking the managerial position with the Colorado Rockies in 1999. Leyland also comments on whether retirement is in his near future and what he would be doing if he wasn’t in baseball, about which he says, “I’m embarrassed to say this, but I would’ve liked to have been in a band.”
Following Studio 42 with Bob Costas, MLB Tonight, MLB Network’s Emmy-Award winning studio show, will air live at 3:00 p.m. ET, leading up to an Interleague matchup featuring the NL East first-place Washington Nationals visiting the Boston Red Sox at 4:00 p.m. ET. Quick Pitch, MLB Network’s regular season highlights show of record, will air after the game, followed by the Oakland Athletics at Arizona Diamondbacks at 10:00 p.m. ET. MLB Network’s complete game schedule for the remainder of June is available here. Games will be blacked out in each team’s home television territory unless otherwise announced. Viewers in areas subject to blackouts will be provided with an alternate game telecast or other programming. Studio 42 with Bob Costas featuring Jim Leyland will re-air on Sunday, June 10 at 10:00 p.m. ET.
Highlights from the conversation with Leyland include:
On managing the Pittsburgh Pirates in their 1992 NLCS loss to the Atlanta Braves:
The ’92 loss was probably the toughest I’ve ever suffered and it was a very interesting scenario. I said it at the time and I still think about it today, this whole picture flashed in my mind [of] a Little League World Series. It was almost reduced to that, like a Little League game, where one side’s jumping up and down and one side’s crying. It was unbelievable.
With all due respect to the media people [and] TV people, I asked them, “Can we have a couple of extra minutes?” I said, “This is a tough one,” and they gave us that. I always appreciated that…It was pretty much what you’d expect, some guys crying, some guys just really lost…I was in a total fog. You know the old saying from Jack Buck, “I can’t believe what I just saw,” that’s kind of the way I felt.
On managing Barry Bonds while in Pittsburgh:
I saw a lot of good things in Barry…He’s not as tough as he lets on. I think he’s one of those guys that it was a motivational tool for him to upset people, to make them mad at him.
He was coachable and he was manageable. A lot of people didn’t think so, but it depended on how you coached him. Barry was one of those guys where he was very coachable, but you had to let him think it was his idea.
On managing the last inning of the 1997 World Series between the Florida Marlins and Cleveland Indians:
I thought “Devon [White] is going to hit a sacrifice fly, get a fly ball over somebody’s head, get a base hit, whatever it may be,” We were gonna win the World Series. When he hit the ground ball to second and they forced the guy at home, I said, “Oh my God, I’m almost out of pitching. I gotta look at what I’m doing.”…I was looking back down at my card and just before the pitch to Edgar [Renteria], I looked up again…Just as I looked up, Edgar hit it and I looked it and it was in center field. I’m going, “Oh my God, it’s over, and what a relief.” I was actually relieved more because I didn’t have to continue to work on my lineup card…It was an amazing feeling.
On Game Seven of the 1997 World Series being underrated:
It’s always stuck in my craw, it’s always bothered me a little bit…I really believe had that been the Yankees [and] the Dodgers, Yankees and the Mets, it might’ve gone down as the second greatest World Series game of all time. … It was truly a better game for me than the Arizona [Diamondbacks] and Yankees [Game Seven in 2001] …It’s one of the greatest games, I think, that was ever played…I think the fact that it was Cleveland and Florida, it just didn’t get the hype that it should’ve gotten.
Note: Bob Costas and Tom Verducci looked back at Game Seven of the 1997 World Series as #13 in MLB Network’s 2011 series “MLB’s 20 Greatest Games” here.
On if he felt he was done in managing after one season in Colorado in 1999:
I didn’t think I would ever manage again. I truly did not think that I would ever manage another Major League Baseball team. I left four million dollars on the table. My wife wasn’t real happy about it. I just felt like I didn’t want to go back there and try to fake my way through it. It wasn’t the right thing to do.
On taking the managerial position in Detroit in 2006:
[Detroit] was probably really the only situation [I would go to]. I live in Pittsburgh so Philadelphia would’ve been a nice little ring. I would’ve been interested. They had a good team, a nice, new ballpark. But [Detroit] had more to it than a lot of other things. I didn’t think, at my age, I was ever going to get a chance to manage the Tigers. All of a sudden, this kind of fell in my lap. Here it was and I said, “You know what, I’m reenergized. This is what I thought I always might have a chance to do, get a shot to do. Here it is, a little late.” But, yeah, this worked out good.
On when he will retire:
When the passion’s not there. When I start getting up in the morning and not wanting to go to work, I’ll go home. Tony [La Russa] and I are a little bit different in that I had a six-year sabbatical [from 1999-2006] and that really refreshed me. That got the battery going again. I think that really helped me out. I think if I would’ve tried to do it like 33 straight years like Tony did, I probably would’ve stepped away too, maybe even before that. But that six-year sabbatical, I spent some time at home and watched the kids grow up a bit. It really refreshed me.
On what he would do if he wasn’t in baseball:
I’m embarrassed to say this, but I would’ve liked to have been in a band. I love to sing. I played the trumpet as a kid. Our family sat around the piano. I never played a piano in my life, but my brother played the piano, my two sisters played. I love it. I still like to sing. I’m not as good as I was at one time. I was ok at one time…I can’t quite hit the high ones like I used to, but I was ok. I sang weddings and I was in a choir and different things like that, and I loved it. But this worked out a little better, I think.
I love soft rock. I’m not into the rap too much, obviously. I’m a little old for that….I love the oldies. I saw “Jersey Boys” four times…I love musicals. I saw a lot of the musicals. I like those and participated in those in school, so that’s probably what I would’ve tried to do. I doubt it would have worked out, but who knows? That’s a tough business. That’s probably tougher than our business to be successful in.
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