Former Pirates, Marlins, Rockies, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the only person elected out of the eight nominees under consideration by the 16-person Contemporary Baseball Era Committee. Leyland received 15 of 16 votes, surpassing the 12-vote threshold with room to space.
Of the other seven nominees, Lou Piniella came closest with 11 votes, representing another tough near miss for Piniella after previously falling one vote shy on his previous appearance on the ballot in 2019. Former National League president Bill White received 10 votes, and the other five nominees (Cito Gaston, Davey Johnson, Ed Montague, Hank Peters, and Joe West) all received fewer than five votes.
Leyland managed 22 seasons in the majors, beginning his Cooperstown-worthy run with the Pirates in 1986. His 11 seasons in Pittsburgh was highlighted by three straight AL East titles for the Bucs from 1990-92, as well as the personal achievements of Manager Of The Year awards for Leyland in 1990 and 1992. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they couldn’t get over the hump and into the World Series, falling to the Reds in six games in the 1990 NLCS and then losing a pair of seven-game nailbiters to the Braves in both 1991 and 1992.
After Francisco Cabrera broke the Pirates’ hearts in Game 7, Pittsburgh didn’t have a winning record again until 2013. Leyland had long departed the team by that point, as he moved on following the 1996 season to become the Marlins’ new skipper.
This new job finally brought Leyland his long-desired World Series ring. The Marlins were the team delivering some October heartbreak this time, as the Fish triumphed over the Indians in seven games to bring the organization its first championship in only its fifth year of existence. Unfortunately for Leyland and the Marlins players and fans, the club went into fire sale mode immediately afterwards, resulting in Leyland’s resignation after a 108-loss season in 1998.
Leyland quickly caught on as Colorado’s manager for the 1999 season, but his frustration at working and trying to manage pitchers in the thin-air environment led to his resignation after just a single year. Leyland became a scout for the Cardinals, and it appeared as though his managerial career might’ve come to an end.
However, a major final act then developed in Detroit. Leyland was hired as the Tigers’ new manager prior to the 2006 season, just as the team was emerging from a rough rebuilding period. Undoubtedly hiring Leyland was itself a major reason why the Tigers finally got on track, and the results were immediately impressive — the 2006 Tigers reached the playoffs as a wild card team and then reached the World Series before falling to the Cardinals.
That was the first of seven .500 or better seasons Leyland would enjoy over his eight years managing in Motown. The Tigers made the postseason three more times, including a World Series appearance in 2012 that saw Detroit swept by the Giants. After another narrow six-game loss to the Red Sox in the 2013 ALCS, Leyland decided to retire from managing at the MLB level, though he did return to the dugout to guide the United States to victory in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Leyland’s career resume consists of a 1769-1728 record, eight playoff appearances, three league pennants, and that 1997 World Series championship. He ranks 18th on the all-time managerial wins list, and 17th on the all-time list of total games managed. He was also a three-time winner of the Manager Of The Year Award, as Leyland added the 2006 trophy to his two awards from his Pittsburgh days.
While the numbers paved Leyland’s path into the Hall of Fame, he is also a beloved figure around the sport, highly respected by peers, coaches, and the many players he managed over the years. Just about everyone who encountered Leyland seemed to immediately have an anecdote about the quick wit and big heart of the longtime baseball man, which was somewhat obscured by his hard-nosed reputation. “What others saw as a gruff, chain-smoking caricature of an old-school manager, those in baseball considered brilliant for how he connected with everyone from the superstar to the last man on the roster to the least-tenured coach on his staff,” the Athletic’s Stephen J. Nesbitt and Cody Stavenhagen wrote in a chronicle of Leyland stories published today. (Stavenhagen and Rob Biertempfel had another collection of Leyland anecdotes three years ago, well worth a read for some more chuckles.)
The “veterans committee” is the catch-all name for an annual panel of rotating membership, organized by the Hall Of Fame every year to gauge the cases of players who weren’t elected or considered by the writers, or non-playing personnel who aren’t a part of the writers’ ballot. Candidates are considered from the “Contemporary Baseball” (1980-present) and “Classic Baseball” (1980 and earlier) time periods, and broken down into a three-year rotation…
- Classic Baseball, all candidates: 2024, 2027, 2030, etc.
- Contemporary Baseball, players: 2025, 2028, 2031, etc.
- Contemporary Baseball, managers/executives/umpires: 2026, 2029, 2032, etc.
Leyland will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 13. He’ll be joined by any players elected via the writers’ ballot, and those results will be announced on January 23.
This year’s 16-person Contemporary Baseball committee was comprised of HOF members Jeff Bagwell, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Bud Selig, Ted Simmons, Jim Thome, and Joe Torre; MLB owners and executives Sandy Alderson, Bill DeWitt, Michael Hill, Ken Kendrick, Andy MacPhail, and Phyllis Merhige; media members/historians Sean Forman, Jack O’Connell and Jesus Ortiz.