Joe Torre Redux

March 17th, 2011 by Jane Heller

Torre cried when he visited Yankee Stadium last year – his first trip back since the big rift. Apparently, today’s meet and greet at Steinbrenner Field was less fraught with emotion and just part of the former manager’s swing through the Grapefruit League in his new job at MLB. While he was in Tampa, he said he’d been invited to this year’s Old Timer’s Day and that he had accepted.

I’m a sucker for happy endings, so this was good news for me. I like it when people who’ve been on the outs finally kiss and make up. But I’d be lying if I didn’t feel some lingering resentment toward Torre. He was a great manager for the Yankees – the right guy at the right time – but when he wrote allowed Tom Verducci to write a book that revealed his innermost thoughts about his players while they were still active and he was still managing bothered me. It did.

I remember the day his book was published because it had the same pub date as my “Confessions” book. (And no, I’m not sore because he stole all the publicity.) I read the reviews and wondered why he needed to be so candid about A-Rod, Damon and others. What was the point? He didn’t need the money, did he? And he certainly didn’t need to pad his resume; he was already a star in the sport. Once I read the book itself, I could appreciate many aspects of it and there was no doubt that it was well written. But I couldn’t get past the meanness. Torre was everybody’s father figure. Aren’t fathers supposed to take the high road and act like grownups?

It’s all water under the bridge now. Maybe. I doubt Cashman will forgive the swipes Torre took at him in the book, no matter what he says. One thing I do know: Joe will get a huge ovation on Old Timer’s Day and he’ll shed more than a few tears as he waves his cap at the fans. I’ll be smiling. As I said, I’d rather have peace in the family than a messy divorce.

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18 Responses to “Joe Torre Redux”

  1. Freya says:

    Jane, I agree with you. I had the same feelings about Joe Torre. I really loved him when he was managing, but the book left me with a bad feeling. While he was managing I thought he was so loyal to his players and then I saw the book as a betrayal.

  2. Margaret says:

    I wrote a short post about this back on 1/27/09. I remember it because I felt betrayed….I know he didn’t do this to me personally but it felt that way at the time. He used to remind me of my Uncle Angelo who I adored. Uncle Ange never fell from grace though for me. He was a stand up man to the very end.

    It doesn’t take away from what Joe accomplished.
    Having said that though, I felt his book was bitter, petty and said a lot about the man.
    And I didn’t like what I saw. I was disappointed that he wasn’t above such behavior.

    I am happy he is going to be there because he is a piece of Yankee history and deserves to be there.
    So like any good family reunion, you smile, you acknowledge what they bring to the family and you try to let it roll off your back and keep quiet. Sometimes keeping the peace is all we can do in a family at times….hell isn’t that the definition of family?….or is that just mine? :-)

  3. Paul says:

    In a way, it’s good that he did it. It shattered the myth of St. Joe.
    I feel a post coming on about that.
    http://paullebowitz.com.previewyoursite.com/blog/?p=604

  4. Jeff says:

    You know Jane, I bought your book and Verducci’s book on the same day. I read yours right away and Verducci’s is still in my library, collecting dust, never been read. DOH!

  5. John says:

    I was really please when I saw that Joe would be at Old Timers Day this year especially because we just split up our season tickets with the group I belong to and I was the only one who realized the June 26th date. I got the tickets.

    I read Joe’s book and really thought it didn’t need to be done at that time but perhaps it was timed to have its effect while George still was alive and relatively competent. Any Yankee book always brings either praise or dismay and most often both. I have talked to people who are really upset with the latest Mantle book. Anything under the Yankee logo brings out opinions from all sides.

  6. Jane Heller says:

    Freya, Joe was loyal to his players and his players were loyal to him. (Well, except for Gary Sheffield.) They really had each other’s backs. That’s why I, too, felt as if the book betrayed that trust.

    There’s that word “betrayal” again, Peg. I think many of us felt it after the book came out. And you’re right about families – we’re closer to some family members than others but we still get together at holidays. It’s the same for the Yankee family, however dysfunctional it may be. Old Timer’s Day is like our Thanksgiving!

    I never thought Joe was a saint before the book, Paul. I really didn’t. I used to rail against his use of the bullpen and thought he had his weaknesses. But as Freya said above, his relationships with his players, for the most part, were unassailable and he handled the media like no one else.

    You still haven’t read his book, Jeff? You’re probably the only one (not counting my own family members) who read mine and not his! LOL. Thank you!

    I don’t think Joe wrote the book for George’s benefit, John. I think George was pretty out of it by then. It was Randy Levine and Cashman who weren’t backing Joe at the time. As for the Mantle book, I think that’s a whole different ballgame, so to speak. Jane Leavy is a respectful, responsible sports journalist (and Mantle fan) who took a clear-eyed look at his life and career, warts and all. That’s not the same as taking shots at your players if you’re a manager.

  7. Doreen says:

    Jane

    You sum up perfectly my feelings on the entire matter, including how I felt reading the book.

    I do like that it gets wrapped up neatly finally. Torre is a significant thread in the tapestry that is the NY Yankees.

  8. Jane Heller says:

    Well put, Doreen. He’s a very significant thread and he does deserve his due in the festivities. His book stirred a lot of passions, but in the end he needs to be back in the fold – just like any prodigal family member.

  9. Emma says:

    I read your book Jane but I did not get Joe’s. BTW, I was at the San Marino library and they have alot of your books there. I like Joe. I’ll never forget the day I went on the field and he gave me the baseball signed by Sandy Koufax. He was very nice to my friend and I. I love that he is sentimental. I wish him the best with his new role with MLB and with his Safe at Home foundation.
    Emma
    http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

  10. Harold says:

    Hi Jane,
    I, too, thought Joe Torre was a great manager who knew how to handle players and did so with great respect. For me, he was perfect for the job. I still don’t know what possessed him to allow publication of a book with the completely out of character opinions of some of his players. I suppose he should be back but I certainly would like to hear some sort of apology from him. I think the players he smeared deserve that.
    Harold

  11. Jane Heller says:

    Glad to hear the San Marino library has my books there, Emma. Thanks for letting me know. Authors always feel their books vanish after they’re published! Joe is a nice man, no doubt, and his long relationships with baseball people attest to that. But he never did take public responsibility for his book and that upsets Yankee fans.

    Hi, Harold. I don’t know what possessed him to collaborate on the book either other than money and, I suppose, an opportunity to air his grievances. I wonder if he apologized to either Cashman or A-Rod when they were reunited for the first time last year and supposedly mended fences.

  12. Jane,
    I read Joe Torre’s book ( after yours) and really thought he was candid and upfront about his former crew. But the editior might have also wanted a bit of the riff raff added to spice up the book and awaken the critics knowing there had to be some unsavory items buried in the book.
    I heard he is loving his new gig with MLB, and he certainly looked healthy and ready to throw down yesterday.
    I guess the little ramblings that came oput did not phase me as every ex-Rays player seems to have a very vivid opinion of their playing times here…Just ask Aubrey Huff, Toby Hall and recently Matt Garza…But as you say, the olive branch was extended to come to the Old Timers game, and Torres did the right thing…..I guess there will be a happy ending after all.

  13. Jane Heller says:

    Renegade, Torre’s editor may indeed have asked for the juicy tidbits to be included in the book, but that didn’t mean he had to include the anecdotes or name the actual players.

  14. Corinne says:

    You’ll be happy to know Jane, that I went to get your book first. After reading your articles in the NY Times, I knew I wanted that one. I was in Barnes and Noble the day it was released. It took a while for me to decide to read Joe’s book, and then, when I did, I was really sad. Was it really necessary to talk about all the private things happening in the clubhouse? Did he have to name names? It seemed to me, that he had his favorites, and for him they could do no wrong, but for those who weren’t…… He was a calming influence, and came along at the perfect time for the Yankees. He defused the Boss for the most part, and was there for the beginning of the Jeter years. And as much as I did like him, I agree with you about the bullpen. And I will never understand why he let Joba continue to pitch that night in Cleveland. I think betrayed is the perfect word for what he did, or allowed Verducci to do. He talked so much about trust, and then he blatantly betrayed that trust. I’m glad he’ll be back for Old Timers’ Day, but I really can’t look at him the same way any more. Funny, but A Rod annoyed the daylights out of me when he first joined the Yankees, but after reading Joe’s book, I found myself suddenly in his corner. Some of the stories in the book were just plain mean. His image will always be a little tarnished for me.

  15. Sue says:

    Jane, like Jeff, I too bought both your and Joe’s books at the same time, and I too read yours first. Unlike Jeff, I did actually read Torre’s book. I was kind of surprised at the time at some of the things he said, especially about A-Rod (not that I like A-Rod, I don’t) – it just sort of seemed like the kind of things you shouldn’t write about someone till they’re old and senile or dead or something.

  16. Jane Heller says:

    Corinne, I’m beyond flattered that you were at B&N to buy my book the day it was published. That is just so cool! As for Torre, your words echo my own, especially about Joba pitching in the midges game in Cleveland. I know he’s said it’s one of his regrets as the Yankees’ manager, and I’d regret it too. It was a huge mistake in judgment. If nothing else, he could have just delayed the game and let the umps have a few minutes to discuss the situation instead of leaving his players out there. Ugh, such a bad memory since I was right there in Cleveland watching it. And yes, I think a lot of A-Rod’s detractors felt the same way you did; suddenly, they were in his corner because of Torre’s insensitivity.

    Exactly, Sue. If you’re a manager, write about players if you must but wait until either you’re no longer in the game or they’re long gone!

  17. Deborah says:

    Jane, I agree totally with your post today as well as all the other comments but no one has mentioned this as a motivation for the snarky stuff he put about Yankees players and owners in his book: In 2007, the Yankees offered him a one-year contract which was a pay cut, in essence (even tho it amounted to $5 mil plus bonuses) and he turned it down. He was quoted at the news conference as saying, “I just felt the contract offer and the terms of the contract were probably the thing I had the toughest time with.” Maybe the book was a back-door way of getting even with the Yankee organization for what he perceived as a slap in the face re the contract…

    Very much enjoy your blog, Jane, and am eagerly looking forward to the season!

  18. Jane Heller says:

    Hi, Deborah. I’m thrilled that you’ve been enjoying the blog! I do agree Torre was miffed about the terms of the contract, but if the book was his way of getting even with the Yankees I’ll think even less of him. How petty that would be! Let’s hope we don’t have to deal with contract issues when Girardi’s deal is up at the end of the year.

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