Jim Leyland gets the call

What did former Pittsburgh Pirates manager and former Mt. Lebanon resident Jim Leyland do a few nights after he was selected for induction into the Hall of Fame? He ate dinner at one of his favorite places, De Blasio’s.

Of course he did.

Leyland—who got the life-changing call Sunday, December 3, and will be formally inducted and have his plaque placed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame next summer in Cooperstown, N.Y.—lived on Midway Road for 12 years, beginning in 1988.

Almost half of Jim Leyland’s 1,769 career major league wins—851—came from his 11 seasons with the Bucs.

He not only has fond memories of his time living in Mt. Lebanon while managing the Pirates to three straight division titles (1990, 1991, 1992), but he also still hangs out around Lebo despite moving not too far away to Thornburg in 2000 because “we simply kind of outgrew our home.”

Leyland gushed about Mt. Lebanon.

“It’s a great place,” he said less than a week after his Hall election. “Great neighborhood. We had a lot of friends there. Great community. Great neighbors. Kids running around. It was a great, friendly place, particularly for the kids. Our kids went to St. Bernard’s.

“We still go over there quite a bit. Still have friends over there.”

Leyland said his two favorite haunts—and places he still visits going on four decades—are De Blasio’s and Atria’s.

Perhaps you’ve seen him at those places or around Lebo over the years. Certainly, he would be gracious when recognized. He’s a humble man at heart.

He’s also a character, no doubt. Those of a certain vintage might remember him for sneaking cigarettes in the dugout. For wearing his emotions on his sleeve to the point of occasionally shedding tears in postgame interviews. For taking no guff from stars he managed, including Barry Bonds and Justin Verlander, but also for encouraging to younger players and marginal major-league talents.

Also for a sense of humor when it was appropriate. In a news conference in Nashville, site of baseball’s winter meetings, a day after he was named to the Hall, he recounted that when he got the call, his family excitedly asked who was on the phone. “It’s Jake from State Farm,” he cracked. He also promised that while he was at the podium that day, “I’m not going to cry.”

And, of course, he is known for being successful.

Leyland racked up the 18th most managerial wins in baseball history, 1,769 with Pittsburgh, Miami, Colorado and Detroit. He led teams to eight postseason appearances, including a World Series title with the 1997 Marlins, and won Manager of the Year three times.

“This is not an easy place to get,” Leyland said of the Hall of Fame during his news conference. “To end up here is awfully special.”

Even with all that moving around, he has maintained a home in the Pittsburgh area since 1987, making this his de facto hometown about as much as Perrysburg, Ohio, where he was born.

Leyland, who turns 79 on December 15, is still active. He serves as a special assistant to the Detroit Tigers and as a consultant to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred.

During the season, he gets to Pirates games when he’s not attending games within the Tigers’ system and maintains close friendships with several people in and around the Pirates organization, including manager Derek Shelton and bench coach Don Kelly, who played for Mt. Lebanon High School, briefly for the Pirates and later for Leyland in Detroit.

If you run into Leyland around Mt. Lebanon, don’t be shy about saying, “Hi, Skip,” as so many people have before. But now you might want to add a hearty congratulations.