Leyland: End of an Era

Jim Leyland said he wasn’t going to get emotional, about 30 seconds before wiping away tears.

Monday morning, he wasn’t the only one.

Leyland held a press conference on the morning of October 21, stating he was resigning as manager of the Detroit Tigers. He had come to General Manager Dave Dombrowski in early September stating his intentions to leave the role at the end of the season.

“On September 7th […] I asked Dave if I could meet him for coffee in the morning,” Leyland said. ” And the conversation basically went like this. I said, ‘Dave, I don’t know what your plans were for next year.’ And he said, ‘Well, you’re my manager,’ and I said, ‘Well I’m not going to be the manager. It’s time.'”

Leyland continued by saying, “the fuel was starting to get low” for him, and it wouldn’t be fair to the organization, media, or fans to continue managing this team.

Leyland’s career with Detroit began in 1963 as a minor league catcher. He spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, both as a player and as a coach for the Montgomery Rebels. After twenty years of managing teams in the majors, that including the Pirates, Marlins (where he won his only World Series), and Rockies, Leyland found himself back in Detroit in 2006.

In his first year of his tenure in Detroit, not three years after their infamous 119 loss season, he led the team to the World Series. The Tigers lost, but Leyland picked up Manager of the Year honors for the third time in his career. He added an AL pennant win in 2012 with this team, and was the winningest active manager in baseball at the time of his retirement.

Leyland did an interview on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning program Tuesday morning, explaining in detail his decision to retire. He described in June of 2013 “feeling different” and “more emotional than I already am, which is kinda bad anyway,” and decided that it was time to tell Dombrowski how he felt. At the time of the meeting between the two heads, the only people who knew about his decision were Gene Lamont (the Tigers’ bench coach) and Tony LaRussa (retired manager and longtime friend of Leyland).

The Tigers players were informed after their Game Six loss to the Red Sox.

The skipper has said he plans, in some capacity, to remain as part of the Tigers’ organization, although it is unclear to most (and most likely Leyland himself) what that role will be. He did say, however, that he won’t be on the bench any longer.

The time will come to start discussing new managers for the Tigers. Now is not that time. It is time to thank a legend, a man who has put his heart into this game and this team for nearly a decade.

“My goal coming here was to turn talent into team, and with the help of the entire organization, we did that,” Leyland said. “This is not a good bye, it’s a so long, as I will be accepting another position in the organization yet to be determined. I hope you enjoyed me as much as I enjoyed you.”

We did. So long, Skip.


Richie Cozzolino is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports

Photo: Detroit Tigers