Former Detroit Tigers announcer shares pair of touching stories about Jim Leyland

Dec 4, 2023; Nashville, TN, USA; Hall of Fame inductee Jim Leyland answers questions at a press conference
Dec 4, 2023; Nashville, TN, USA; Hall of Fame inductee Jim Leyland answers questions at a press conference / Kyle Schwab-USA TODAY Sports

Following Jim Leyland's first ballot election into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, former longtime Detroit Tigers announcer Rod Allen took to X to congratulate Leyland and share two stories about his time with the former skipper. Allen spent nearly 17 seasons in the Tigers' announcer's booth as a color commentator, overlapping with the entirety of Leyland's eight year tenure. He won two Michigan Emmys for his work, one during the Tigers' 2006 season, Leyland's first and which marked Detroit's first trip to the World Series since they won in 1984.

The Tigers let Allen go in 2018 following a reported physical altercation with fellow announcer Mario Impemba. Both were suspended and their contracts not renewed for the next season. Allen's first video posted in tribute to Leyland had to do with his suspension and later firing.

He described Leyland as "a tremendous manager, but a much better person than a manager," and said, after his incident with Impemba, that Leyland was "the very first person from that organization to reach out to me. [...] He simply wanted to know if I was doing okay." He went on to praise Leyland's impact on the players he's worked with and highlight their close relationship.

Allen's second story pertained to the Tigers' 2006 season and outfielder/DH Marcus Thames, who had been going up and down between the major league club and the team's Triple-A affiliate in Toledo for the past two seasons. He made the Opening Day roster in 2006 with Leyland's support and soon got more playing time due to injuries sitting some of his teammates. He went on to become an important part of the Tigers' core that year, with Allen nicknaming him "Country Strong."

In his video, Allen describes keeping Thames in the big leagues as a priority for Leyland, "so he can get some pension time, so he can help out his mother Veterine, who was in a wheelchair. [...] Jim is the kind of person that wanted to make sure that he put Marcus in a position to take care of his family. [...] He has said himself that Jim Leyland changed his life. But Jim did that for so many players and so many coaches."

Tributes to Leyland from former Tigers and future Hall of Famers Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera have also followed in the days since his election, speaking to Leyland's leadership and work ethic during his time in Detroit.

Leyland and other Hall of Fame electees, who are yet to decided upon, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 21 in Cooperstown as part of Hall of Fame Weekend.

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