Saturday, August 23, 2014

Remembering Yankees Of The Past: Joe Torre

Joe Torre was born in Brooklyn, New York so when he was hired on to be the manager of the New York Yankees before the 1996 season it was a bit of a homecoming for the skipper. Torre was hired by George Steinbrenner who was known for frequently firing managers and was the longest tenured manager under Mr. Steinbrenner before he relinquished his control of the team before his passing in 2009. Torre was actually the second longest tenured Yankees manager in their history behind only Joe McCarthy. Torre lasted 12 seasons in New York managing in 1,942 regular season games and went to the playoffs in all 12 seasons. Torre finished with a 1173-767 record as the Yankees manager and won six American League pennants and four World Series championships.

Torre’s tenure with the Yankees did not start off as all rainbows and sunshine as the New York City press and fans greeted him as “Clueless Joe” before the season even started. Torre was also almost fired by Steinbrenner before having a deal fall through thankfully for the Yankees sake. Torre would win the Manager of the Year in his first season in New York and led the Yankees to their first World Series since 1981. Once Torre won the World Series with the Yankees in 1996 Steinbrenner tore up his contract, literally, and gave Mr. Torre a more lucrative and longer term contract as a reward.

Torre and the Yankees fell in heartbreaking fashion in 1997 to the Cleveland Indians in the postseason but would then rattle off consecutive World Series victories in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Torre also won American League pennants in 2001 (losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks) and 2003 (losing to the Florida Marlins). The Yankees won a then American League record 114 games in 1998 and lost only once in the playoffs to capture the World Series over the San Diego Padres. Torre was the manager when David Wells through his perfect game, the first in regular season play in Yankees history, on May 17 1998 and was also managing when David Cone through his own in 1999. Torre won Manager of the Year once again in 1998.

For every memorable moment Torre had another setback as he was the manager in 2004 when the Yankees led the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS 3-0 in a best of seven series before Boston was able to rattle off four consecutive wins to complete the Yankees collapse. The Red Sox would win the 2004 World Series to simply add salt into the wound, the first in 86 seasons. Torre bounced back to manage the AL East champions in 2005 and 2006 and even won his 2,000th game as a manager in 2007. Torre became the first member of Major League Baseball to win 2,000 games and have 2,000 hits in his career. 2007 was full of memorable milestones for Torre as he won his 2,010th career game passing Leo Durocher for 9th place on the all-time managerial wins list and also passed Casey Stengel on the Yankees all-time managerial wins list for the Yankees with his 1,150th victory.

The 2007 postseason marked the beginning of the end of Torre’s tenure as the Yankees manager as Steinbrenner said in an interview that the Yankees would not renew Torre’s contract if the team did not beat the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. The Yankees quickly lost two games in the series before winning Game 3 at Yankee Stadium before inevitably losing Game 4 the very next night. The team and the fans knew that Torre was probably not coming back and gave him a huge standing ovation as he came out to make his final pitching change in Game 4 of the ALDS. The Yankees would ultimately offer Torre a one year deal after the season worth $5 million with an additional $1 million in incentives that Torre quickly declined.

Torre was beloved by the fans I New York and wrote a book that was published on February 3, 2009 called “The Yankee Years.” Torre would not return to the Bronx until September 20, 2010 when he paid his respects to the Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner received a monument in Monument Park on that night and the occasion seemed to smooth over some of the problems the two sides had. Torre has been a staple at Yankee Stadium in recent years for various events and Old Timers Days and will finally get his own day in about 15 minutes or so. A big thank you goes out to Mr. Torre for everything he has done for the Yankees and for Major League Baseball since his tenure in the Bronx. If anyone deserves this day it’s definitely you. Congrats again Joe!

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