February 11th, 2015
It has been nearly 15 years since Joe Torre led the New York Yankees to the last of his four World Series victories and almost five years since he last managed in the big leagues, but whether in his role as Major League Baseball’s Chief Baseball Officer or his Safe At Home Foundation, he has few plans to drift off into a quiet retirement in the near future.
“I’m 74 years old, the future for me is later this afternoon,” Torre cracks when asked about his plans. But the joke belies his ongoing passion to help grow the game of baseball.
When Torre decided to hang up his spikes after managing the 2010 Los Angeles Dodgers he knew the next stage of his life wouldn’t be the same. Since 1960, Torre had spent nearly every summer in a big league dugout as a manager or player, including his four championship seasons with the New York Yankees, in a career that landed him in Cooperstown’s Hall of Fame last summer. (Read Torre’s induction speech here.)
There was no question he could have retired to a life of glad-handing and autograph signing – he could probably go the rest of his life without picking up a dinner tab in New York if he chose — but he opted for a full-time job with MLB.
“I never wanted to just go and shrivel up somewhere,” says Torre. “I really believe I need to test myself and take part in something that will stimulate me.”
On a snow-battered Monday afternoon at MLB’s Manhattan headquarters, Torre is at ease in a blue sports jacket, loosened tie, slacks and sneakers, tilting back in his office chair as he explains when he knew it was time to call his managing career a wrap.
“We were in Anaheim early in the  season, I was talking to the group and I could sense that were politely listening to me, but they weren’t really hearing me.” Torre remembers telling Don Mattingly, then his heir apparent as Dodgers manager, that it would be his last season.
“I said ‘this is it, I’m not gonna do it anymore,’ and I never really looked back,” he says. Not long after that season, then-commissioner Bud Selig installed Torre as vice president of baseball operations.
That’s the role Torre still serves – though with a different title, Chief Baseball Officer, under new commissioner Rob Manfred – and he enjoys the work, which ranges from evaluating appeals of official scoring decisions to meting out player discipline and, most importantly, overseeing all umpires. He’s also helping in efforts to accelerate the pace of play, an important concern in a world where fans with smartphones have less patience for the timeless qualities of baseball.
The various responsibilities make for a busy schedule, but Torre embraces it.
“I didn’t want to be someplace just for the sake of name recognition, I wanted to do something substantial,” he says. “It doesn’t pay like managing paid, but it’s certainly important to baseball.”
He’s still been able to get his managing fix too, helming the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic in 2013 which he compares to “having your grandkids for a couple weeks then sending them back.”
While Torre aims to stay involved in baseball as long as he’s able, his passions off the field are focused on family and the Safe At Home Foundation, which began in 2002 and holds a personal connection for Torre, who grew up with an abusive father.
Torre remembers a general anxiety as a child – he didn’t even go out for the baseball team as a high school freshman for fear of not making it and would skip school because of terror over not knowing the right answers – but for years assumed it was just his own personality that provoked his nervous feelings.
It wasn’t until years later, not long before he was hired to manage the Yankees in fact, that he first opened up about his childhood at a seminar on self-improvement he attended with his wife.
“I realized I wasn’t born with this fear and nervousness, it was created by what was going on in my home,” he recalls. Once a personal struggle, suddenly Torre felt like he wanted to “scream it from the housetops,” after realizing other people had endured similar experiences.
His wife Ali was stunned when he said he wanted “domestic violence” to be the focus of his charitable efforts in New York, and the higher profile brought on by his success as Yankees manager helped start the donations flowing when the foundation launched in 2002.
Ultimately the foundation, which launched in 2002 and has an annual star-studded dinner in New York, would focus its efforts on education, with Torre giving talks at many tri-state area schools and the creation of safe zones known as “Margaret’s Place” after his mother.
“If you want to end the cycle of domestic violence you don’t just put a band-aid on something, you try to appeal to the next generation of potential abusers and educate them,” Torre says.
He was reminded of the importance of the matter again in 2014 when domestic abuse by NFL stars Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson made headlines.
In Peterson’s case, the Minnesota Vikings running back showed little remorse for beating his four-year-old son with a belt, largely because he had been the recipient of similar discipline as a child.
“Here he is, not trying to hide what he’s doing, because that’s what his dad did,” Torre says. While Peterson’s athletic ability propelled him to a career that has made him millions, at some point the cycle of abuse reaches someone without those talents and can have devastating impact.
Getting more involved with the foundation is something Torre considers when he thinks about eventually relinquishing some of his day-to-day duties with baseball, but that’s not imminent.
As for finances, Torre maintains the frugal attitude he had as a young ballplayer.
“What was a lot of money to me back then still feels like a lot of money,” he says. “Thanks to [late Yankees owner] George Steinbrenner, I’ve got a little money to play with if I want to pick some stocks. My wife lets me play the game; it’s like Monopoly, but she keeps an eye on the rest.”
Torre, who says he invests the bulk of his money conservatively, considers it fortunate he didn’t earn his biggest paychecks until later in his career. “I became more responsible, and a little more aware of how important it is to know where the money’s going.”
Take horses for instance. Over the years Torre has invested in a number of thoroughbreds, the last of which recently retired from racing.
“I realized that wasn’t such a good investment, but only because I said yes to everybody,” he says. “I had pieces of like 18 horses at one point and you realize they all gotta eat, they all have to go to the doctor.”