(Long Island, NY) When people hear the name Joe Torre, they immediately think of what a great manager he has been for the New York Yankees. Of course, that is true. But to take all of his other accomplishments and ‘back seat’ them would be unfair just because the man has excelled at this point of his career even higher than before.
Born July 18, 1940 in Brooklyn, Joe grew up a New York Giants fan in a Brooklyn Dodger part of town. His first big league season as a player was 1960 with the Milwaukee Braves. The following season, he played in 113 games and hit .278 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI. He played with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves until he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for 1B Orlando Cepeda on March 17, 1969. He was acquired by the New York Mets on October 13, 1974 for ray Sadecki and Tommy Moore. He was named player-manager on May 31, 1977 and took over full-time manager status on June 18, 1977.
His record as Mets manager is not a true reflection of his skills. The team was down right terrible and did not spend any money on players. Perhaps a good note on his Met managerial tenure was that the team avoided 100 losses in his five seasons at the helm.
He took over the job in Atlanta in 1982 and promptly delivered a National League West division crown to a franchise that had been struggling for a long time. His three seasons at Fulton County Stadium produced a first and two second place finishes. He went on to manage the St. Louis Cardinals from 1990 to 1995, finishing as high as second.
When Yankees owner George Steinbrenner made a manager change after the 1995 season, people looked at it as another time he was budding in for the worse. Buck Showalter had just led the team to a wild card playoff appearance and seemed to have them going in the right direction. Torre was not a very successful manager, and struggled in his stay in St. Louis. Why would the Yankees make this change?
Call it a hunch, or intuition. Torre became the first native New Yorker to manage the Yanks and promptly won the World Series in 1996. No need to go into all his other accomplishments with the Yankees, as I’m sure all of you are well aware of them.
But off the field, Joe really shines. He survived prostate cancer in 1999 and missed the team’s first 36 games that season while recovering from successful surgery in St. Louis. Along with his wife Ali, he started the Joe Torre “Safe At Home” Foundation in 2003 to aid in the prevention and awareness of domestic violence. He made the public aware of his story growing up in that environment and is using it as a tool to help others. In addition to his on the field awards, he has also won the Milton Richman “Gotta Have Heart” Award by the NY Chapter of the Baseball Writers of America Association, the Joan Payson Community Service Award by the BBWAA at their 2005 awards banquet, and carried the Olympic Torch in both the 2002 Games in Utah and the 2005 Games Torino, Italy.
Torre is one special person, and a heck of a baseball manger, too.