(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was published in the Scranton Times-Tribune on July 27th, 2014. The writer, Kevin Pittack, is a writer for onbasetalk.com)
On July 1, 2004, the New York Yankees faced the Boston Red Sox in one of the most memorable regular season baseball games of all time. I was 17 and watched the game from home with my father and little brother.
There, under the bright lights of New York, embroiled in the most heated of professional sports rivalries, were some of the brightest stars of a decade ago on the same field. Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Pedro Martinez and Mariano Rivera all took part in a 13-inning classic that would be seared into the minds and hearts of all who viewed it on the hollowed grounds of the old Yankees Stadium.
This game featured everything one could ask for: strong pitching, flurries of dramatic offense, and even Derek Jeter diving headlong into the stands to nab a foul ball in a scene that would be among the most replayed highlights over the years.
As the game dragged on into extra innings, another game took place. Players swapped positions all as the managers tenaciously attempted to put their teams in the best position to win. At one point, Yankee right fielder Gary Sheffield took up third base as the Yankees scrambled to put together a game plan that would win.
It all worked out in the end as backup catcher John Flaherty lined a pinch-hit, single down the left field line to win the game. After this game I had a new found appreciation for one man, and he wasn’t swinging a bat or diving for balls.
He sat stoically in the dugout, motioning to his players, speaking in calm, measured tones and making the difficult decisions to win this single game, only one of 162.
He led the team like an old general.
Much like how Alexander the Great at Gaugamela or Erwin Rommel in Northern Africa positioned troops for optimum results, he knew how to use his players’ talents and which situations would enable them to succeed; like Matthew Ridgway in the Korean War he was able to strengthen the resolve and confidence of his players; and like Sherman’s March to the Sea in the Civil War he knew when and how to go for the win.
That man, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, will be enshrined in the baseball Hall of Fame today with five other deserving inductees. Not only a fan of the Yankees and baseball, I could not be more proud and happy to see such a man honored.
After that game, I saw the leadership qualities in Mr. Torre that in other realms of society would designate a man as “great.”
He was a resolute, demanding, realistic and empathetic manager who was adored by his players not only for the respect he showed them, but for his decision making abilities.
Even in Boston, Joe Torre’s name evokes respect.
Coming from an abusive home during his childhood, Torre used his spotlight to bring attention to the issue of child abuse and his Safe at Home Foundation brings awareness to those who need it. He is one of the most successful men to ever helm a baseball club and is an example of someone coming from a bad place, achieving success and using his resources to help and enrich the lives of others
Along the way, from 1996-2007, he gave fans around the country memories that will last a lifetime and it’s only fitting that a man of his caliber will be enshrined forever for the positives that he provided.