Lupica: From Yankee Stadium to Hall of Fame, Joe Torre is still the biggest guy in town

Joe Torre Induction Speech- NY Daily News

Torre heard cheers at Yankee Stadium and heard them again Sunday at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown. Other Yankee managers of the past won more World Series than Torre did. No manager of the Yankees ever meant more, was more popular.

July 27, 2014
By Mike Lupica
From : New York Daily News

This was the end of Joe Torre’s speech now in Cooperstown, which meant the end of a journey to this moment from Marine Park and St. Francis Prep and the old Brooklyn Cadets, and now he was summing up, in a quite eloquent way, a baseball life that saw him become a giant of his sport and of his city.

He had told about his playing career, with the old Milwaukee Braves and the Cardinals and with the Mets, where he had become a player/manager at the age of 36, a National League kid out of the ’50s doing that. He had told about being fired by the Mets, and then the Atlanta Braves, and finally the Cardinals.

“I got fired three times,” Joe Torre had already said, on this day when he was officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. “That’s in the category of failure.”

But then he got the Yankees in 1996. He had never made it to the World Series as a player but now he won four World Series with the Yankees and lost two others. There was a time, especially in the early days of the last Yankee dynasty, when he felt like the real mayor of New York. He set the highest standards for himself, and for his baseball team. He still is doing that, which is why he beat himself up afterward on Sunday for not giving a proper thank-you to the late George Steinbrenner in his speech. It was still some speech.

“There is a power to both patience and persistence,” he said in Cooperstown, before he said this about baseball:

“Our sport is part of the American soul and it is ours to borrow. We take care of it for a time and then pass it on.”

Then the crowd in front of him was cheering him the way he had been as the manager of a Yankee team as important as any there ever was. Other Yankee managers of the past won more World Series than Torre did. No manager of the Yankees ever meant more, was more popular.

In the video they played at Cooperstown before Torre spoke on Sunday, his old Cardinals’ teammate and old friend Tim McCarver, spoke of Torre’s “perfect baseball career.”

Only it was not perfect. It was quite imperfect, in fact, and not absent of heartbreak, even before he had followed his brother Frank from Brooklyn to the big leagues.

Torre was the son of an abusive father; his loud and often terrifying childhood was the reason Torre later started his fine Safe at Home Foundation. And his timing was always just off as a player. He got to the Braves after they stopped making the World Series. The same thing happened after the Cardinals had made three Series in the 1960s.

But then Joe Torre got with the Yankees. Then he started winning and really didn’t stop until the World Series played in the shadow of Sept. 11, when the Yankees lost Game 7 in the bottom of the ninth to the Diamondbacks. Even that time, his team lifted the spirit of the city with three stirring victories at home, three nights as remarkable as the old Stadium had ever known.

“The NY on our hat means more than just the Yankees,” he told his team that year.

His last World Series with the Yankees was 2003. They lost to the Marlins in six games, a kid named Josh Beckett pitching brilliantly in Game 6 and shutting them out at the Stadium on a Saturday night. I was with Torre well after that game was over when he said, “Let’s take a walk.”

I asked him where.

He said, “The other end of the hallway.”

He wanted to go down and personally congratulate the old Marlins manager, Jack McKeon, who had just won his first Series at the age of 73.

“I know how much this means to him,” Joe Torre said, and took a long, slow walk to the visitors clubhouse, limping on ruined catcher’s knees. Even in defeat, Torre knew how to act. He’d had enough practice, after all, across all the years before he came home to New York. This is a kind of grace with which you must be born.

No Yankee manager was ever cheered the way he was. There was an irony to that, of course, because of all the terrible yelling he heard from his father when he was growing up.

“It’s why I’ve always hated loud noises,” he said to me one spring training morning in Florida.

There was no way to stop the cheers he heard once at the Stadium. No way to stop them at the Hall of Fame Sunday. There have been other coaches and managers in our city, just never a story like this that began in our city. One last time on Sunday, a long way from Brooklyn and a long way from 161st St., Joe Torre was still the biggest guy in town.