In Praise Of Jim Leyland

Jim Leyland is a legend. The 67 year old manager has been around the block more times than lost dinner party guests with bad directions. He signed his first contract to play professional baseball in September of 1963, more than two months before the Kennedy Assassination.

After his unimpressive playing career was over, Leyland went on to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates for ten years, win a World Series as the skipper of the Florida Marlins and then helm the Detroit Tigers, a position that he still holds with the team that originally signed him to that first contract almost 50 years ago.

During his 21 years as a manager, he’s won two pennants and been named the best at his profession on three separate occassions. And he gets away with smoking cigarettes in the dugout. Once, when asked about possibly retiring from baseball, Leyland famously replied, “My wife doesn’t like me that much. I can’t retire.”

He represents the type of awesomeness that I have a hard time immediately articulating except to say that all I want in the world is to spend an afternoon with Leyland, drinking beer, taking apart a lawnmower and putting it back together again in a residential garage that’s been converted into a workshop.

I’m not sure if that properly conveys the measure of respect people of my generation feel for a Leyland type, but know that it’s not uncommon for total strangers in a similar age range to recognize someone like Leyland on the street or in a shopping mall and give each other knowing glances of mutually witnessed awesomeness.

Leyland possesses a type of irreverence that’s only held by someone who has not only lived his life to the beat of a different drum, but also found whoever was drumming in the first place, took the instrument away from that person and did it himself, all while making smart ass comments. This type of attitude isn’t just conveyed in his words, but also his body language.

He’s the type of person/manager who wouldn’t suffer the indignity of yelling across the diamond for a substitute to replace an injured player. At least not when he can make an obvious gesture for 6’6″, 270 lbs Brad Eldred.

He doesn’t suffer fools, but he’ll gladly tell you why you’re being foolish … and do so with great detail, actually.

And, once again, he does this:

He doesn’t need a meme to exist in which the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man In The World is parodied. Listing made up exploits isn’t his thing. All that needs to be said is that he’s Jim Leyland.

And, as evidenced by his talents for gesturing and mimicry and smoking with subtlety, Jim Leyland remains one of the best things about baseball.