Leyland had said he'd never manage again

Updated: November 1, 2004, 5:34 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Leyland has spent the last five years turning down job offers and insisting he'll never manage again in the major leagues. He's ready to return to the dugout.

Leyland, who led Florida to its first World Series championship in 1997 and guided Pittsburgh to three division titles in the early '90s, interviewed for the Philadelphia Phillies' managerial position on Monday, and also plans to talk to the New York Mets.

"This is a great situation, a good ballclub, a very good foundation in a beautiful, new setting," Leyland said, adding Philadelphia is a "great location" because of its proximity to his home in Pittsburgh.

Leyland was the eighth and final candidate interviewed for Philadelphia's manager's job since Larry Bowa was fired two days before the Phillies finished a disappointing season in second place behind Atlanta.

Former managers Don Baylor, Charlie Manuel, Grady Little, Buddy Bell and Jim Fregosi, Pirates third-base coach John Russell and Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton also interviewed.

Phillies general manager Ed Wade hopes to make a decision before he leaves for the GM meetings in Florida next week.

"He has a great track record," Wade said of Leyland.

A proven winner, Leyland also has a history of leaving organizations on his own terms. He spent 11 years with the Pirates, two in Florida and one in Colorado. Leyland left behind $4 million on his contract when he retired after one season as the Rockies' manager in 1999 to spend more time with his family.

He has worked as a Pittsburgh-based scout for the St. Louis Cardinals the last five seasons. Two days after he took that job, Leyland said: "Believe me, I'm not ever going to manage again."

When Leyland accepted an offer to help coach his son's youth baseball team last year, he said: "This is absolutely the reason I quit managing. I'm not going back. You're out of your mind to think I would go back."

Now, he's changed his mind.

"I always missed the competition, but I didn't miss being away from home and the travel," Leyland said. "The fire always burned inside. … My family is very encouraging. They want me to go back."

Leyland made it clear he regrets his situation with the Rockies, though he couldn't promise he wouldn't leave another job before his contract expired.

"I did a lousy job in Colorado," he said. "I was never treated better than I was there. It just wasn't there. I was burned out. It had nothing to do with the organization."

In 14 years as a manager, Leyland, 59, has a career record of 1,069-1,131. He also managed 11 seasons in the minor leagues.

"He has definite ideas," Wade said. "He's been very successful."

Leyland would be the popular choice among fans in Philadelphia, who are starved for a winning team. The Phillies have won only one championship in their history, and haven't been to the playoffs since 1993.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press