HOUSTON -- Dave Trembley was going through a rough patch. He was managing at Double-A Harrisburg in the Pittsburgh organization in 1987 and was trying to shake an 11-game losing streak. While in his room at the Red Roof Inn in Albany, N.Y., his phone rang.
"I picked up the phone, and he goes, 'Hey, this is Leyland,'" Trembley said. "I go, 'Who?' He says, 'This is Jim Leyland.'"
Leyland was in his second year as a Major League manager with the Pirates and made it a point to check in on Trembley and see how he was holding up.
"I said, 'I'm not doing real good. We just lost 11 in a row,'" Trembley said. "He said, 'I just want to ask you, 'Are they playing hard?' I said, 'Jim, they're playing hard.' He said, 'Are the fundamentals good?' I said, 'Yeah, the fundamentals are good.' He asked how they were treating the fans in Harrisburg, and I said, 'They're treating the fans great.'"
Leyland told Trembley not to worry. He told him he had been through similar stretches during his 16 years as a Minor League manager and knew how important it was to have people in the organization give you some support.
"I'll never forget what he did," said Trembley, the former Orioles manager who served last season as the Astros' third-base coach.
Trembley's Harrisburg Senators proceeded to win the Eastern League championship in their first year as a franchise that season, going 52-28 after Leyland's phone call. Monday's news that Leyland was retiring after 22 seasons as a Major League manager, including the final eight with the Tigers, was another step towards the end of an era, Trembley said.
"A guy like Jim Leyland gave me incentive to keep going," said Trembley, who managed in the Minor Leagues for 20 seasons. "He always had time for people. Guys like that, you're not going to see again. The guys that are leaving, [Joe] Torre and [Tony] La Russa and now Leyland. These guys have been at it for an awfully long time -- Bobby Cox. You won't see another Jim Leyland. You won't see another guy like that."
Trembley admired the way Leyland always took time to return any cards or messages he received from people and how he treated people and the game with respect.
"He's a baseball man," he said. "It's hard for me to put into words because he meant so much to me when I was managing in the Minor Leagues with the Pirates. Leyland was a first-time manager in the big leagues with Pittsburgh and really took me under his wing. He always had time for people.
"He managed 16 years in the Minor Leagues. He's from a very small town. Leyland knew how to treat people. Obviously, this is something that Jim Leyland is doing for himself. He's put an awfully lot of time into the game and has been very good at it for a long time. It takes it's toll on you mentally and physically, but the guy was a straight shooter."