NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jim Leyland was told he’d get a telephone call by a certain time Sunday if he had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
When that didn’t come, Leyland wasn’t necessarily surprised.
“I didn’t really think I had a chance,” he said. “Today, it seemed like time passed so fast until about the last hour before they were going to make an announcement. Then everything slowed down.”
But the greatest honor in baseball was only delayed a bit.
The call came and Leyland was the lone candidate selected by a 16-member committee that met here to review contemporary era managers, executives, and umpires.
Leyland, who turns 79 later this month, received 15 votes. Longtime manager Lou Piniella had 11, one shy of the required 75 percent. Former National League president Bill White, who also had a distinguished career as a player and broadcaster, received 10 votes.
Piniella, 80, also was one vote short in 2018.
“Today I was the fortunate one,” said Leyland, who acknowledged there were a few tears when he got the news.
The other candidates — former managers Cito Gaston and Davey Johnson, umpires Ed Montague and Joe West, and former general manager Hank Peters — received fewer than five votes.
Leyland is the first manager elected since Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre were selected for the Class of 2014. La Russa, Torre, and commissioner Rob Manfred were among those who called Leyland Sunday.
“It’s the final stop, really, as far as your baseball career goes,” Leyland said. “To land there in Cooperstown, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Leyland was 1,769-1,728 over 22 years with the Pirates, Marlins, Rockies, and Tigers from 1986-2013.
Leyland won 95 or more games three times with the Barry Bonds-led Pirates but could not get past the NLCS. He finally got to the World Series with the 1997 Florida Marlins and won what proved to be his only championship.
After one season with the Rockies followed by a six-year break, Leyland returned to the dugout.
Dave Dombrowski, who built the ‘97 Marlins, hired Leyland to manage the Tigers in 2006. He averaged 87.5 victories over eight seasons and won two pennants.
The Tigers won 93 games in ‘13 but were eliminated by the underdog Red Sox in the ALCS. Leyland told his players after Game 6 at Fenway Park that he was retiring.
Leyland returned to manage Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and delivered a championship.
Leyland is 18th all-time in victories and tied for seventh with Terry Francona in postseason victories with 44. He was named manager of the year three times.
Leyland played in the minors from 1964-70, reaching Double A. He managed in the Tigers organization from 1971-81 then coached under La Russa with the White Sox from 1982-85.
Leyland will join any players selected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in the Hall’s Class of 2024. The induction will be July 21 in Cooperstown.