Flashback: When Yankees' Hired Joe Torre as Manager, Pundits Said Failure Lay Ahead
publication date: Sep 16, 2009
I recently read Joe Torre and Tom Verducci's book, The Yankee Years (Doubleday) about Torre's reign managing baseball's New York Yankees for twelve years. (Disclosure: I didn't grow up liking the Yankees - most of my childhood was spent being a Phillies fan as I grew up outside of Philadelphia although I must confess to being a Red Sox fan for my young adult years).)
Under manager Joe Torre, the New York Yankees made the playoffs 12 consecutive years, made it to the World Series six times and won the World Series four times - all amazing feats.
Here a fascinating excerpt from the Yankee Years...the scene is just after it was announced that Torre was hired by New York Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner
At his introductory news conference, Torre displayed his cool demeanor and ease in front of a hostile media crowd. He answered questions with humor and optimism, and did not hesitate to talk about his lifetime goal of winning the World Series, something the Yankees had not done in 17 years, the longest drought for the franchise since it won its first in 1921. He knew Steinbrenner had grown restless.
"When you get married, do you think you're always going to be smiling?" Torre said at the news conference. "I try to think of the potential for good things happening. That's the World Series. I know here we'll have the ability to improve the team ... To have that opportunity is worth all the negative sides."
All in all, Torre was not warmly received as the replacement for a popular young manager Steinbrenner had chased off after a playoff season. He was an admitted last choice for the job, and soon heard even after his hiring that Steinbrenner was working back channels to see if he could bring Showalter back. Critics regarded Torre as a recycled commodity without portfolio. Torre was in Cincinnati with in-laws on the day after his news conference when a friend from New York called him up.
"Uh, have you seen the back page of the Daily News?"
The New York Daily News welcomed the hiring of Torre with a huge headline that said, "CLUELESS JOE." The subhead read, "Torre Has No Idea What He's Getting Himself Into." It referenced a column written by Ian O'Connor in which O'Connor said that Torre "came across as naïve at best, desperate at worst." Wrote O'Connor, "It's always a sad occasion when man becomes muppet." A last choice, a placeholder for Showalter, a man without a clue, a muppet ... this is how Torre was welcomed as the new manager of the New York Yankees. None of it bothered him.
"It didn't matter to me," Torre said. "I was so tickled to have the opportunity that none of it mattered. I was a little nervous starting out with it. Every time you get fired there is always something you think you can do better. I started thinking, maybe I have to do this different or that different. And then one day before spring training began, I was thumbing through a book by Bill Parcells, the football coach. He said something like, 'If you believe in something, stay with it.' And that was enough for me."
Off the field, Joe Torre is a winner too.
Here's a short video about his Safe At Home Foundation which addresses domestic violence