Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, center, points to Tigers manager Jim Leyland, left, as Leyland holds the 2012 ALCS championship trophy with Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Detroit — Tigers owner Mike Ilitch hasn’t been around the team much publicly this season, but he was one of the few people who knew during the season about manager Jim Leyland’s plans to resign.
Team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said he wanted to keep the news under wraps — and his boss was the only one he informed.
“I’ve known about this since Sept. 7 and I told one person and that person was Mike Ilitch — that was it; I didn’t tell anybody else,” Dombrowski said Monday morning at Leyland’s news conference at Comerica Park. “Normally, I tell my trusted lieutenants about everything and I didn’t tell them this because we had talked about it and Jim preferred it that way.”
Ilitch, 84, hasn’t made many public appearances this year but Dombrowski indicated that Ilitch saw the team during the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox and still is keeping tabs on what is going on with the team, especially given Leyland’s departure.
The Tigers were eliminated following a 5-2 loss in Game 6 of the ALCS at Fenway Park in Boston.
Ilitch wasn’t present at Monday’s news conference, but Dombrowski allayed concerns about Ilitch’s health.
“Mike Ilitch is fine. He was at the games in the postseason and in Boston the other day,” Dombrowski said. “I talk to him often and we haven’t sat down and talked a great deal about this present situation because it just took place. He was aware it was taking place.
“I’m sure we’ll sit down some this week and talk about the thought process going into next year. He’s been around and doing fine.”
Leyland, who managed for eight seasons in Detroit, is thankful for the opportunity to have managed for Ilitch.
“I just can’t express what a thrill it’s been to work for Mr. Ilitch. When I took this job eight years ago, when I walked in his office, I said, ‘I’ll do a great job for you.’ That’s all I said.”
Leyland chose to keep things professional with Ilitch and said the owner didn’t meddle with him doing his job with the team.
“I never socialized with Mr. Ilitch and he has never one time called down and jumped on me about who to play or what to do with the lineup. He’s never complained one time,” Leyland said. “I’m sure he’s had some conversations with Dave on some nights when he maybe wasn’t so happy. I could never have asked for a better owner that Mike Ilitch — it just doesn’t happen.”