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Leyland confirms he will retire

At ease with decision to leave after season

Thursday, September 09, 1999

By Ron Cook, Post-Gazette Columnist

Surprisingly enough, there were no tears.

Jim Leyland, who has been known to cry when he has to send a player to the minor leagues, didn't choke up even once yesterday when he talked about his life-altering decision to retire as a manager at the end of this season with the Colorado Rockies.

"I've never been so at ease," Leyland said from Montreal before his last-place Rockies beat the Expos, 5-1.

"There are a lot of ingredients you need to have to be a successful major-league manager. I've lost those skills. I just don't want to manage anymore. Call it burnout. Call it whatever you like. I've had enough."

Leyland, 54, nearing the end of the first year of a three-year, $6-million contract with the Rockies, said he discussed his retirement plans with team owner Jerry McMorris last week. He told his players Monday night, then the Denver media late Tuesday night.

"I'm announcing this now because I want to put an end to all the speculation," Leyland said. "I've heard people say I'm doing this so I can go somewhere else and manage. That's absolutely not true. I've also heard I'm doing this so I can get more money. But money never has been a big thing to me. I'm walking away from $41/2 million here. I could go through the motions for the next two years and collect it, but it wouldn't be right. I'm not going to steal money. I never have and I never will."

Leyland said the disappointment of the Rockies' poor season -- the team has a 63-78 record and trailed first-place Arizona in the National League West by 201/2 games going the games last night despite a $60-million payroll -- contributed to his retirement decision. So did the separation from his family during most of the past three seasons. His wife, Katie, and children, Patrick, 7, and Kellie, 6, continued to live in Mt. Lebanon after he left the Pirates after the 1996 season to manage the Florida Marlins.

"We'll always live in Pittsburgh," Leyland said. "That's our home. There's no better place to live."

Leyland said he hopes to stay in baseball, "maybe as a scout working out of Pittsburgh or running over to Cleveland to see some games or maybe doing some special-assignment work for somebody." He said he has no interest in becoming the Rockies' general manager, a position that opened last month when Bob Gebhard resigned. "Absolutely not. That's a 12-month job. Plus, I'm not smart enough to do it."

As for taking a year or two off and managing again?

"There's no way," Leyland said. "I'm done managing. I'm tired of the travel. I'm tired of being away from my family. I just feel like a big burden has been lifted off my back."

Leyland is third among active major-league managers with 1,059 victories, trailing St. Louis' Tony LaRussa and Atlanta's Bobby Cox. He won three division titles during his 11 years with the Pirates (1986-96), then won the world championship with the Marlins in 1997.

"I wouldn't close the door on him coming back and managing again," Pirates Manager Gene Lamont said.

Lamont and Leyland are best friends. "I'll never be closer to anyone than I am to him," said Lamont, who was hired as Leyland's third-base coach with the Pirates in 1986, then succeeded him as manager here.

"I didn't try very hard to talk Jim out of this because it sounds like he's quitting for all the right reasons," Lamont said. "If the fire's not there anymore, he should retire. But it's going to be a big adjustment for him. I just hate to hear him say he'll never manage again. There might come a time when he wants to manage again, but he's bull-headed enough not to do it just because he said he wouldn't."

Lamont said he's hopeful Leyland will be remembered as one of the game's top managers, not for having left the Pirates, Marlins and Rockies with time left on his contract.

"I'm sure he'll take some heat for this and I guess I can understand that. But that hurts me because I know how loyal Jim is. You won't find a more loyal person. I know there were special circumstances why he left those jobs."

Leyland left the Pirates after new owner Kevin McClatchy decided to cut the payroll and build from scratch. He left the Marlins after last season when owner Wayne Huizenga did the same thing before selling the club.

"I'm not a jumper," Leyland said. "If you know my history, you know that. I spent 18 years with the Detroit organization. I was the Pirates manager for 11 years. How many guys can say that? In my mind, I'm hardly a jumper."

Leyland said he will leave managing with no regrets.

"Not one. It's been wonderful. I've worked with and for some great people. I can count on one hand the number of players I've actually disliked. I've been fortunate. Baseball has made a great life for me and my family."

Leyland said longtime coaches Rich Donnelly, Tommy Sandt and Milt May, who go far back in his Pittsburgh days with him, are comfortable with his decision.

"Those guys will be fine. They all have contracts [for two more seasons]."

Katie Leyland also is supportive.

"It's like she told me," Leyland said. "I'm the only person who knows if this is what's right for me. Well, believe me, it's right."

There really were no tears from Leyland. Only a laugh.

"Now, the pressure's on to find another job. Katie told me if I think I'm sitting around the house 24 hours a day, I'm out of my mind.

"I think she's afraid I'm going to drive her nuts."

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