PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan)- Former Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Jim Leyland joined “The Cook and Poni Show” Thursday morning to remember one of baseball’s greats.
Don Zimmer passed away Wednesday at the age of 83.
Leyland was a great friend of Zimmer’s. He said for the past eight years, they talked every day. He was even at Zimmer’s wedding, where he was married at home plate between games of a doubleheader in Elmira, N.Y.
Leyland said Zimmer was a character, but he was so much more that that and he hopes he is recognized as a man who tried to make the game better.
“He was an icon,” Leyland said. “He was loved by everyone. Opposing teams, scouts and fans.”
Leyland said he had a heart of gold and the players loved him because he was honest and they respected him for that. He was a character, but he hopes that is not how he is remembered.
“He should be remembered for the type of person he was and not just the character,” Leyland said. “He was a tremendous, tremendous human being.”
Leyland is in his first series of retirement after spending time as the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies and most recently, the Detroit Tigers.
He is still working as part of the Tigers’ front office. He also works for Major League Baseball and as part of the instant replay committee. He tells the guys that replay is something new and something the fans will need to get used to, but it’s good for the game. He thinks it’s going well.
“It’s great for the game,” Leyland said. “It’s great because when you go home at night, the team that was supposed to get the call got the call.”
Leyland said he is not aware of what Super 2 means because the Tigers don’t worry about things like that. However, he agrees that you can make a case with keeping guys like Gregory Polanco, who is the next big thing for the Pirates, in the minors for some extra seasoning.
“Teams bring up guys when they are supposed to,” Leyland said. “It doesn’t t hurt to take time with a player’s development. I agree with Neal Huntington on that. People don’t realize the difference between Triple A and the majors.”
Leyland has seen Polanco play and he says he has superstar written all over him. But, don’t expect him to be perfect upon his arrival.
“He can do it all,” Leyland said. “He will be a great player, but he will go through the trials and tribulations just like any other player that is called up. It even happened to Barry Bonds.”
Leyland also told the guys that this team has had to deal with a new hurdle this year. They are a team that people are paying closer attention to and teams are challenging them more because they are on the radar.
“I believe they will overcome that hurdle because they have a good team,” Leyland said. “I saw what they did on the West Coast and it looks like they are making a move and they will be really good before it’s all said and done.”