Former New York Times baseball writer Murray Chass has an interesting piece on his blog about baseball general managers — and what happens after they are fired. One of the men he features is former Tigers general manager Bill Lajoie.
Bill Lajoie hasn’t been a general manager for 20 years after a seven-year term with the Tigers that ended following the 1990 season. He left that job voluntarily, and he has passed up subsequent offers to become a general manager again. In the meantime, he has worked for five other teams, currently the Pirates.
“I didn’t want to be the Detroit general manager,” Lajoie recalled, “but I did interview four other jobs and I was offered three of the jobs but I turned them down. So I obviously didn’t want to be a general manager. My wife had died the year before and my kids were in school. There was a lot of stress in that job.”
Lajoie said that two veteran general managers, Pat Gillick and Andy MacPhail, kept recommending him for general manager vacancies, and he asked them to cease and desist.
Lajoie said he was prepared to take the San Francisco job when Peter Magowan was in the process of becoming their principal owner before the 1993 season.
“I had my stuff ready to go,” he recalled, “and then Magowan told me three things I had to do. I told him you don’t have to pay me $400,000 to answer the phone.”
Lajoie, who is one of the most principled baseball men I have ever met, gave up his Detroit job because “I couldn’t get along with Jim Campbell anymore.”
John Fetzer, the Tigers’ owner and the man Commissioner Bud Selig calls his mentor, “took the job away from Campbell and gave it to me and made Campbell president.”
Lajoie is a senior advisor with the Pirates, who need all the help they can get. Before landing in Pittsburgh Lajoie worked for the Braves, the Brewers, the Red Sox and the Dodgers.
In 1989, when I was writing for my alma mater’s student paper, The Western Herald, I interviewed fellow WMU alum Lajoie and he was very generous with his time. We talked about his career as an All-American baseball player for the Broncos (he was inducted into the WMU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1982), the path leading to the Tigers’ front office and even about how the waiver system works. Just don’t ask me to explain it.
Of course, I can’t find the article anywhere in my college stuff, which is probably good. Based on some of the articles I have found, it’s likely not very good.
A final bit of trivia: Did you know that Lajoie’s 1955 Broncos were national runners up in the College World Series? They lost 7-6 to Wake Forest in the championship game.