Jim Leyritz was always a lot of fun to watch over the years. He was a good Yankee, coming up with some pretty incredible moments when we really needed him. He was clutch, no question about it.
October 1995. The ALDS, Game 2 versus the Mariners. A walk off home run in the 15th inning that night.
October 1999. Game 4 of the World Series...a home run.
And of course, the 1996 home run in Game 4 of the World Series against Mark Wohlers. Yet another. It started right there for me and continued with some very candid answers to some very personal questions, that included that horrific drunk driving accident in 2007 killing another driver. Jim was later acquitted, but Jim realizes so much more these days and is trying to stay strong, for his family and for others as he moves forward in his life. It was a moment I wanted to ask Jim about and I truly appreciate him opening up about it to our audience today.
Anyway, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jimmy Leyritz for Bleeding Yankee Blue. Let me tell you, this is now one of our favorite interviews to date, and it was a pleasure to chat with him.
So here it is... a BYB Exclusive... Jim Leyritz. Enjoy this... I certainly did...
BYB: Jim, Bring me back to 1996. Game 4. Mark Wohlers on the mound. I still remember Joe Buck like it was yesterday... "Back, at the track, at the wall... we are tied!"
I screamed at the top of my lungs that night. What the heck is going through your mind running around the bases?
Jim Leyritz: Honestly, my mind flashed back to 1995 when we won Game 2, then lost 3 in a row. All I was focused on was winning that game and the series. I knew the home run was big. But would be even greater if we won. When we finally did, people could point to that moment as what really started it all! It was a great feeling finishing what we started.
BYB: Who was the toughest pitcher for you and why?
Jim Leyritz: Randy Johnson in his day. Not as a Yankee but with the Mariners. He was 6'10" and just wild enough to scare you.
BYB: Tell me about playing for 2 guys I really admire from fan perspective... Buck Showalter and Joe Torre. What are their styles like as managers?
Jim Leyritz: Buck Showalter in his first stint was the greatest manager in the game that I have ever seen to this day! He had to learn and knows now that communication with the players is also pivotal. He didn't have that his first go round. He does now, and that's why things are so good in Baltimore.
Joe Torre was the best manager of people I had seen. He knew how to handle egos, myself included. He also surrounded himself with great people. To this day I have never seen a better combination of manager and bench coach then him and Don Zimmer.
BYB: You once signed a photo for my kid who was born in 2003 in Hackensack Medical Center. Our Dr at the time, Dr. Clachko said he once delivered your child as well. That's when I knew I was a true Yankee fan! Anyway, here's the question; What's it like for fans to embrace you as an athlete? Can it be a hassle to deal with the photos and the autographs?
Jim Leyritz: It's never a hassle for me. I can see if I was as popular as Jeter was. Then it might be. But I think I have just the right notoriety. People recognize and respect, but don't go crazy. Oh, and yes, Dr Clachko did deliver my middle son Dakota.
BYB: Everyone wants to know. You played with Derek Jeter. What's the guy like in the clubhouse. Work ethic, professionalism, leadership...
Jim Leyritz: He was everything as a ball player you could expect! He reminded me a little of Donnie Baseball. A great leader by example.
BYB: I've always been weary of #13. Why that number and why did it work for you?
Jim Leyritz: Well, Wade Boggs came to New York in 1992 and wanted number 12. Next number available was 13. Then, I had my two best years so number 13 stayed for that reason.
BYB: Growing up, who was your favorite baseball player and why?
Jim Leyritz: Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. Rose because of his work ethic and drive. He wasn't the best athlete, but worked to make himself a great player. Johnny because as a kid, he gave me his catchers mitt when I was age 12 and I became a catcher because of that.
BYB: I love your batting stance. Explain how it evolved for you... the lean back, the bat twirl..
Jim Leyritz: My stance developed because of a broken leg in high school. I was still hitting with a cast on my front foot, so I had to hit with my front leg stiff. The bat twirl was from watching Mickey Rivers.
BYB: Serious, yet important question; You were acquitted of DUI manslaughter in a terrible and unfortunate car accident back in 2007. How do you pick yourself up, be strong for your family, for others, in a situation like that? Is faith involved in your life?
Jim Leyritz: It was a tragedy and horrible night. Both drivers made poor decisions that night. But I knew that I didn't cause the accident and when I would finally get my day in court, I would prove that. I knew the only mistake I made that night was to have a few drinks and drive. Wearing my seat belt saved my life.
Faith was the only reason I made it through. My three boys gave me the strength to fight, but my faith is what made me not take a plea and the easy way out. I waited 3 grueling years for that outcome. The jury saw that I did not cause the accident within 45 minutes of deliberating. I had a State Attorney using my name to try to get her elected to become a Judge. To this day, I know God had a hand in everything that happened. It taught me never to take one day on this earth for granted.
BYB: Powerful Jim and thanks for giving us that insight. Let me get back to baseball. If you got the call, and a club wanted to talk to you about being a bench coach or hitting coach... do you answer the call, or do you stick with your family and enjoy retirement?
Jim Leyritz: I would go back to the field now only if it was the Yankees or one of the teams here on the west coast where I would still be with my family the extra 81 days. Teams like the Angels or Padres or Dodgers. My boys are older now, and most of the time are with their friends. So I would be open to it.
BYB: Finally, Do you ever read Bleeding Yankee Blue? If so, what do your think?
Jim Leyritz: Yes I do! I get notices when articles come out that mention things. It's a great site for Yankee fans to connect!
Jim thanks, and thank you so much for opening up. I know we got some great info that I've never heard about in your life. Really great and I appreciate you taking the time to speak to the Bleeding Yankee Blue audience.
And to my audience. I hope you enjoyed this interview with Mr. Leyritz. He was great to speak with us, and now forever part of the BYB family!
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