|This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2012)|
|Catcher / Infielder / Outfielder|
December 27, 1963 |
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|June 8, 1990 for the New York Yankees|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 13, 2000 for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Runs batted in||387|
|Career highlights and awards|
James Joseph Leyritz (born December 27, 1963 in Lakewood, Ohio) is a former catcher and infielder in Major League Baseball (MLB). In his MLB career, Leyritz played for the New York Yankees, Anaheim Angels, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, and Los Angeles Dodgers. With the Yankees, Leyritz was a member of the 1996 and 1999 World Series champions, both against the Atlanta Braves. Jim is divorced and has four children, one of whom he adopted; Sharlene Villegas-Leyritz, Austin, Dakota and Phoenix Leyritz. Sharlene is currently attending University of Texas in San Antonio as a freshman, Austin (Senior) and Dakota (Freshman) currently attend Tesoro High School in Orange County, California and Phoenix is attending Las Flores Middle School.copy edit
Leyritz grew up in Anderson Township, Hamilton County, Ohio with his parents, brother, and sister, and attended Turpin High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He then attended Middle Georgia College, a junior college in Cochran, Georgia, before transferring to the University of Kentucky. At Kentucky, Leyritz played college baseball for the Kentucky Wildcats baseball team.
After playing the 1985 season for the Kentucky Wildcats, Leyritz went undrafted by Major League Baseball, but was signed as a free agent by the New York Yankees. Leyritz made his MLB debut for the Yankees on June 8, 1990. He is best known for his 3-run home run off Atlanta Braves closer Mark Wohlers in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series. That home run was significant, as the momentum from then on shifted towards the Yankees.
After the 1996 season, the Yankees traded Leyritz to the Anaheim Angels for two players to be named later (PTBNL): minor leaguers Jeremy Blevins and Ryan Kane. On July 29, 1997, the Angels traded Leyritz and a PTBNL (minor leaguer Rob Sasser) to the Texas Rangers for Ken Hill. After the season, the Rangers traded Leyritz to the Boston Red Sox with Damon Buford for Mark Brandenburg, Bill Haselman and Aaron Sele.
On June 20, 1998, the Red Sox traded Leyritz with Ethan Faggett to the San Diego Padres for Carlos Reyes, Mandy Romero and Darío Veras. With the Padres, Leyritz appeared in the 1998 World Series against the Yankees.
Leyritz served as a pinch-hitter more extensively toward the end of his career. He batted and threw right-handed exclusively in the majors, but was known to switch-hit in the minor leagues. Leyritz is also known for hitting the last home run of the 1990s, in Game 4 of the 1999 World Series.
Idiosyncrasies at the plate
Leyritz was known for using an unusual stance which involved keeping his front leg (left leg) straight and stiff while his back leg (right leg) behind him considerably bent at the knee. He did this while circling his bat around behind his head, waiting for the pitch. After each pitch that Leyritz did not put into play or strike out on, he would grab the bat by its center and twirl it at his hip like a baton. He has said that former Yankee, Mickey Rivers, taught him how to twirl the bat at his hip.
Leyritz was also Andy Pettitte's personal catcher in 1995-96 and again in 1999-2000.
Playoff reputation and exploits
Leyritz is best known for hitting numerous postseason home runs that either won, tied, or changed the momentum of several series.
In Game 2 of the 1995 American League Division Series against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium, Leyritz hit an opposite field two-run home run to right-center into the rain in the 15th inning to win that game 7–5 for the Yankees and provided them with an ample 2–0 series lead in the best-of-five series. The home run came off Mariners pitcher Tim Belcher, who was famously involved in a profanity-laced and threatening incident with a cameraman covering him walking through the Yankee Stadium tunnel after giving up the home run. The Yankees would eventually squander the series lead by losing the following three games in Seattle's Kingdome, the final two of which were decided in highly dramatic fashion. (The Mariners won Game 5 by a score of 6–5 with two runs in the bottom of the 11th inning.) As a result, this home run is not as well known because it ultimately did not change the series outcome.
The best known of Leyritz's playoff heroics occurred in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series against the Atlanta Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The Yankees had lost the first two games of the series at home, and narrowly won Game 3 in Atlanta. Game 4 appeared to be going to the Braves, who led 6–0 after 5 innings. The Yankees rallied for 3 runs in the 6th, setting the stage for Leyritz in the 8th inning. Leyritz stepped up with one out and two men on base and hit a three-run home run to left field to tie the game and cap the improbable Yankee comeback. The home run was hit against Atlanta closer Mark Wohlers and the Yankees eventually won the game 8–6 in 10 innings. Leyritz's Game 4 home run remains the most recognizable moment of that series and of his career.
In 1998, Leyritz was on the San Diego Padres. Leyritz hit a number of unlikely playoff home runs and clutch hits that season, the most dramatic of which was an opposite field home run against Billy Wagner to off the right field foul pole in the top of the 9th inning in the Astrodome that tied Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Houston Astros. However, the Astros would later win the game in the bottom of the ninth. In game 3, Leyritz hit the eventually game-winning home run off Randy Johnson in the bottom of the 7th inning that broke a 1–1 tie. Overall, Leyritz batted .400 with three home runs and five RBIs in that Division Series. Ironically, Leyritz's Padres would go up against his former team, the Yankees in the World Series. The Padres were swept in four games and Leyritz did not record a home run or RBI in any game.
In 1999, Leyritz had rejoined the Yankees and hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 8th inning of Game 4 of the World Series. The home run made the score 4–1. NBC commentator Bob Costas remarked incredulously about Leyritz after the home run, "You could send this guy to a resort in the spring and summer, as long as he comes back for October."
On April 14, 2012, it was announced that Leyritz was returning to the Yankees on a personal services contract.
On June 8, 2006, while doing an interview on the Opie and Anthony show on XM Satellite Radio, Leyritz admitted to using amphetamines after his shoulder surgery in 2001. The statement came in the wake of an admission by pitcher Jason Grimsley that he used performance enhancing drugs throughout his career.
On December 28, 2007, Leyritz was arrested in Broward County, Florida on suspicion of drunk driving and vehicular homicide in which Leyritz's car struck Freida Veitch's car. Veitch, who was returning home from her bartending job, was not wearing a seat belt. She ejected from the car and died at the scene. Leyritz was released on US$11,000 bond and charged with two counts of drunk driving.
Police collected two blood samples from Leyritz - the first 2½ hours after the crash and the second about an hour later. The first sample showed a blood-alcohol level of .14, and the second, .13, police said. Florida's legal limit for motorists is .08. Prosecutors say Veitch had a blood-alcohol level of .18.
Several days after the accident, it was revealed that Leyritz may face further charges because he had his license suspended in New York prior to the accident. On June 20, 2007, Leyritz was ticketed outside Albany, New York for using a cell phone while driving. On November 23, his license was suspended after he failed to appear in court. The state of Florida is processing the suspension notice from New York and could file additional charges once his Florida license is suspended. According to an official from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: "The department has the statutory ability to suspend his license based on the fact he had knowledge of a suspension in another state and still came to Florida for a driver's license. It is unlawful." Leyritz's lawyer is quoted as saying that Leyritz's license "was not suspended in the state of Florida on the day of the accident, nor is it suspended today."
On February 13, 2009, Leyritz was ordered back to jail as his bail was revoked following his apparent consumption of alcoholic beverages in violation with his bail conditions. A judge allowed him to return home on bail on February 23 after agreeing with Leyritz's attorney that his pretrial release conditions were unclear and that Leyritz had misunderstood rather than intentionally violated the terms.
On May 13, 2009, Leyritz was hospitalized in Florida. Reports on ESPN claimed Leyritz had threatened suicide, but Leyritz issued a statement later saying he was not suicidal but stressed out. Leyritz ran into trouble on May 14 when he attempted to start his car but the alcohol monitoring device on the car malfunctioned, leading to a false positive and triggering an automatic urine test for Leyritz. The test showed he had not consumed any alcohol and a judge cleared him.
In November 2010, Leyritz's trial for the December 2007 DUI crash was held. He was acquitted on the DUI Manslaughter charge, but was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail. He was subsequently sentenced to one year's probation and a $500 fine. In May 2010, Leyritz had settled a civil lawsuit for the accident, paying $350,000 to the victim's family.
Leyritz wrote a book titled Catching Heat: The Jim Leyritz Story, published in June 2011. The book was co-written by brothers Jeffrey Lyons and Douglas B. Lyons. In a brief review, Publishers Weekly called the book "a surprisingly defensive attempt at a self-serving memoir."
- Hobson, Geoff (April 13, 1997). "Jim Leyritz Has A Story That's All Heart". The Seattle Times.
- Newark Hires Leyritz". Associated Press. February 4, 2011.
- Mandell, Nina (August 24, 2011). "Newark Bears honoring convicted drunk driver Jim Leyritz on night of their weekly beer pong bash". Daily News (New York).
- "ESPN - Ex-Yankee Leyritz admits to using amphetamines - MLB". Sports.espn.go.com. 2006-06-09. Retrieved 2010-11-21.
- "ESPN - Leyritz charged following accident that killed 30-year-old woman - MLB". Sports.espn.go.com. 2008-01-31. Retrieved 2010-11-21.
- "Leyritz could face additional charge with suspended license". ESPN. 2008-01-02. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
- "Leyritz jailed for drinking alcohol". ESPN.com. 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
- Leyritz To Remain Out of Jail While Awaiting Trial SI.com, February 23, 2009[dead link]
- "Leyritz was 'stressed out'".
- Ex-Yankee Leyritz accused of battery UPI.com, July 2, 2009 (UPI)
- "Ex-Yankee Jim Leyritz gets probation, fine in Florida DUI case". USA Today. December 2, 2010.
- "Jim Leyritz acquitted of DUI manslaughter in Florida". Associated Press. November 20, 2010.
- "Nonfiction Review: Catching Heat: The Jim Leyritz Story". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 4 August 2011.