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Leigh Montville
August 27, 1990
Jim Leyland has found a place in Pittsburgh. First place
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August 27, 1990

The Lone Rider

Jim Leyland has found a place in Pittsburgh. First place

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"We were scheduled to open in Chicago, but there was snow and the entire series was postponed," he says. "We opened instead in New York on Easter Sunday against the Yankees. We went to New York—second time I'd ever been there in my life—and on Saturday night the general manager, Roland Hemond, saw I wasn't doing anything. He asked me if I wanted to come along to a concert at Carnegie Hall. I mean, Carnegie Hall. I never had thought....

"The next day, we opened in Yankee Stadium. A doubleheader. I'm just walking in the outfield, out near the monuments. I'm standing next to Yogi Berra. Two clean uniforms are in my locker. My shoes have been shined and set out for me. We beat the New York Yankees in both games. At Yankee Stadium!"

Four years later, in November '85, Ley-land was hired to manage the woeful Pirates. A press conference was held. He was introduced as a bright young baseball mind. It was as if he had appeared from nowhere. Twenty-two years of nowhere.

"The first game in Pittsburgh, I stood on that field," he says. "I looked into the stands. I saw my father. I was just so proud, and I knew he was proud."

The low voice drops a little lower. He has been the Pirate manager now for five years. He is sitting in the visiting manager's office at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. His team is in first place. He wipes his eyes with his right hand.

On Dec. 31, Leyland gave up the coffee. On March 1, he gave up the cigarettes. He isn't exactly sure why he gave up either, except that he decided he could not give up one without the other. He didn't like the way the television cameras always seemed to find him in the dugout with a cigarette. He also didn't like the control his habits had over him.

He now smokes a cigar after a game. He drinks tea. It would seem that with the division race heating up, this would be a time to backslide, but he is calmer than ever. He talks with a reasoned voice in the midst of a growing storm.

"I'm not a great believer in momentum or any of that," he says. "I think that your momentum is as good as your next starting pitcher. Talent is what is important, and this club has talent—a lot of talent. What I want are guys who can grind it out day after day and not fluctuate."

He somehow has found peace along with a spot in the majors. The fever still has its hold—he still swallows losses as if they were doses of castor oil—but there is other furniture in his life. There is furniture, period.

"Isn't it crazy?" says Katie. "I went with him to pick out the furniture. I never had any idea that I'd have to live with it. If I had known that, I might have picked out some other things."

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