Former players laud Leyland upon his retirement
Sid Bream enjoyed some of the Pirates' good days under Jim Leyland. Dan Plesac endured some of the not-so-good days.
Yet, the memories they shared struck an identical note on Monday after the 68-year-old Leyland announced his retirement as the Detroit Tigers' manager, signaling the end of 22 seasons in the dugout.
“Jim Leyland was the best manager I ever had in Major League Baseball,” said Bream, a Pirates' first baseman from 1985 — the season before Leyland arrived — through 1990. “He knew what to do. He knew when to kick you in the butt and when to tell a joke. It didn't matter who you were. If you were the franchise, if he needed to get in your face, he'd get in your face.
“I really, really appreciate him,” Bream said. “I appreciate him as a human being. I appreciate him as a manager, and I certainly appreciate him as a great friend.”
Bream played on Leyland's first playoff team in 1990. Ironically, it was Bream who helped usher in the demise of the Pirates and Leyland's eventual departure when he scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning for Atlanta against the Pirates in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. It would take 21 years for the Pirates to post a winning record and return to the postseason. Leyland left after the 1996 season for south Florida, leading the Marlins to a world championship in 1997.
Plesac played with the Pirates in 1995 and 1996, a former star closer trying to reinvent himself as a set-up man. Stripped of much of its talent, the club posted a two-year record of 131-175, twice finishing last in the NL Central. But that did not alter the pitcher's impressions of Leyland.
“You know, I played for a long time, 18 years,” said Plesac, now a MLB Network analyst. “I played for some great managers. I've been around some great people. Jim Leyland was the best manager. I don't like to single anybody out, but the list of best managers I've played for is a very short list. His name is the only one on it.”
Plesac added: “He was a nice guy, he could be a tough guy. He knew when to wrap his arm you. He knew when to kick you in the butt.”
Plesac said he especially recalls Leyland's last home game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1996.
“I remember him walking around shaking hands when the game was over,” said Plesac. “He walked around the park waving to the crowd. I remember thinking, ‘Man, these people really love him.' . . .He's the best. He's genuine. I guess the best way to describe him is, he is what he is. He put his heart and soul into his players, his team, and he's done that at every stop.”
Leyland managed the Tigers for eight seasons beginning in 2006. Former Pirate and Point Park product Don Kelly — whose brother-in-law is Pirates second baseman Neil Walker — played several seasons for Leyland in Detroit.
“He really cares deeply about his players,” Kelly said. “When you go out there, the way he treats you, you want to run through a wall for him, go out there and get a win. That's the way he treated me. He treated everybody like that.”
Leyland, who has kept homes in the Pittsburgh area with his wife, Katie, since his Pirates days, retains a close emotional bond with the Pirates and the city.
“It's just a great place,” he told the Trib in May. “This is my home and I live here. The last thing I wanted to do was leave Pittsburgh as a manager. I've got a lot of friends here.”
Bob Cohn is a sports writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Happ’s strong start, Ramirez’s homer pace Pirates past Rockies
- Pirates notebook: Hurdle’s faith in Polanco pays off
- Biertempfel: Pittsburgh native faced quick learning curve as Marlins GM
- Patience serves as virtue amid pitching prospect Glasnow’s quest for majors
- Strong-armed outfielder Garcia growing into all-around threat
- Starting 9: Pirates place renewed emphasis on nabbing base-stealers
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Rockies, Aug. 30, 2015
- Pirates notebook: Catcher Cervelli among ejection leaders
- Pirates turn nifty double play in 9th, edge Marlins
- Lacking 2 of his pitches, Pirates’ Morton can’t find rhythm in loss to Marlins
- Pirates notebook: Burnett’s simulated game goes well