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Former Pirates manager Jim Leyland touched by text messages from players he cut who never reached big leagues

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Of the 294 text messages former Pirates manager Jim Leyland received in the hours after his election to the Hall of Fame, the ones that touched him most were from former minor leaguers.

"Guys that never made it. Guys that you had to tell them their career was over. That's not easy to do," Leyland said. "When you're telling an 18-, 19-year-old kid it's over, that's a little tougher than people think."

Leyland appeared at a news conference Monday, a day after his election by the contemporary era committee for managers, executives and umpires. As Hall of Fame managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre watched from front-row seats, Leyland put on a cream Hall of Fame jersey.

"This baby fits nice!" he gushed.

He recounted messages from stars like Barry Bonds and Justin Verlander, of his nervous wait Sunday, of in-game decisions long ago that he still wrestled with.

In a no-smoking ballroom, Leyland looked forward to after his half-hour question-and-answer session— so he could get to a place where he could smoke a cigarette.

He won three pennants and led the Florida Marlins to a World Series title in 1997, retiring with 1,769 regular-season victories over 22 seasons with Pittsburgh, Florida, Colorado and Detroit from 1986 to 2013. Leyland, who turns 79 in two weeks, was reluctant to express a preference on a logo for the cap of his hall plaque and would take the hall's advice, possibly to omit any logo.

"I do not want to disrespect anybody that I managed for," he said.

Leyland remembered a previous winter meeting at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, where he entertained in a saloon by singing late one night.

"Believe it or not, when I was a kid I was in the choir and I loved to sing," he said. "I had a brother play the piano, two sisters who played the piano. We hung around the piano every Sunday night and we sang, and that's what we did. Maybe if you had a couple drinks, I didn't sound too bad."

Leyland becomes the 23rd manager in the hall. He will inducted on July 21 at Cooperstown, New York, along with players voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, whose balloting will be announced on Jan. 23.

Leyland managed the Pirates from 1986 to 1996 and led the team to three straight appearances in the National League Championship Series from 1990-1992, earning an 851-863 win-loss record while being named the BBWAA Manager of the Year in 1990 and 1992.

His 851 wins as manager of the Pirates ranks third all-time in team history, trailing only Fred Clarke (1,422) and Danny Murtaugh (1,115). 

He follows the game from home these days.

"I'm still willing to learn," he said. "It has changed a little bit from what I understand. But I will tell you this: I never, ever had a general manager come down and be alone. I don't know if that goes on today or not, and I don't want to get into that because it could be controversial. I don't know if that happens or not. There's rumors that it has happened, I don't know."

Leyland's 32-year-old son Patrick is continuing the dugout legacy. Patrick managed the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, to a 67-64 record and second-place finish this year in the Class A Carolina League. He skippered the Arizona Complex League White Sox in 2022.

"He's a little more modern than I am when it comes to some of the strategy and stuff that goes on in today's game," Jim Leyland said. "I'm not going to sit up here and brag about my son. I'm not going to do that. But he's a baseball junkie like his dad. I think he's pretty good. But he's going to have to earn his own way, and I think there's a possibility that he might."

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