Good news emerged on the first day of MLB’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee on Sunday night. Long-time Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Contemporary Era committee. He becomes the first manager added to the Hall since 2013 when Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox were all unanimously elected.
The ballot consisted of Leyland on his first ballot, along with former managers Cito Gaston, Davey Johnson, and Lou Piniella, so there was tough competition. Additional names on the ballot were umpires Ed Montague and Joe West, as well as baseball executives Hank Peters and Bill White. Leyland will now be inducted this summer with the class of 2024.
The Hall of Fame voting total:
Jim Leyland (15 votes, 93.8%); Lou Piniella (11 votes, 68.8%); Bill White (10 votes, 62.5%); Cito Gaston, Davey Johnson, Ed Montague, Hank Peters and Joe West each received less than five votes.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 4, 2023
In a storied managerial career, Leyland compiled a 1769-1728 record. He led the Barry Bonds era Pittsburgh Pirates to three straight division titles from 1990-1992, before partnering with Dave Dombrowski in Miami to bring the Marlins a World Series title in 1997. Leyland then famously led the Detroit Tigers to the World Series in his 2006, his first year at the helm of the ballclub. He’d ultimately bring the Tigers the AL Central division crown in three straight seasons from 2011-2013, though of course falling short in the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Leyland’s time in Detroit left an enduring legacy and a lot of great stories and moments. While not always beloved in the moment, Tigers fans eventually embraced Leyland as a top baseball man and leader, as well as a blue collar guy who understood the privilege of working in professional sports and clearly and regularly expressed his appreciation and responsibility to the fanbase. The image of the small, wiry figure of Leyland smoking in the tunnel during games or letting players and umpires feel the full force of his occasional tirade and intolerance of anything he thought fit under the b.s. category left an indelible impression on Tigers fans.
Since retiring after the brutal 2013 ALCS loss to the Boston Red Sox, Leyland has remained a Special Assistant to the Tigers front office, a position he continues to hold under President of Baseball Ops, Scott Harris, and he is still a spring fixture in Lakeland. A salty dog with a gravelly voice, a withering stare, and a heart of gold beneath the crusty exterior, Leyland remains a well-loved figure in Tigertown.
He now joins Sparky Anderson in 2000, and Bucky Harris in 1975, as the former Tigers managers elected to the Hall of Fame. We’ll see if he ultimately goes in under a particular team, or elects not to pick between Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Miami. His baseball career started with the Tigers when he was drafted at age 18 as an undersized catcher, and ended with his managerial tenure here in 2013, so we’ll see how he decides to handle that.
We offer our heartfelt congratulations to Jim Leyland and his family on this well deserved honor, and look forward to seeing him celebrated at Comerica Park this summer. We’ll leave you with one of our favorite moments from his time in Detroit.
Congratulations Skip!! I’m so incredibly happy for you and your family! When we first met I was so nervous… you were already a legend! You quickly became more than just a manager but a friend… Thank you for your faith in me from the beginning!
— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) December 4, 2023
Just incredible news tonight that Jim Leyland is heading into the Hall of Fame.
Getting to know him over the years and hearing him tell stories has been incredible.
And just about every story starts with “Now this better not make it on the F’n radio tonight!”
Congrats Skip! pic.twitter.com/LSCvwPryaY
— Greg Gania (@Greg_Gania) December 4, 2023