“Clueless Joe. Torre has no idea what he’s getting himself into,” the headline read from an article written by Ian O’Connor of the New York Daily News, after Joe Torre, a managerial retread with three other organizations became the 21st manager of the New York Yankees under George Steinbrenner on November 2, 1995.
Met with much controversy, Torre’s hiring came in a period when the Yankees were showing marked improvement, due to the lengthy rebuilding process under Gene Michael and Buck Showalter. In October, the Yankees reached the postseason for the first time since 1981, but a fifth game loss in the Division Series to the Seattle Mariners led to the ouster of the popular Showalter. After initially considering veteran managers Tony La Russa and Davey Johnson as possible replacements, the Yankees turned to Torre based on a recommendation from Steinbrenner advisor Arthur Richman.
With a 894-1,003 managerial record at the time of his hiring, the Brooklyn-born Torre brought little in the way of confidence to the Yankees faithful. Working for the likes of Ted Turner and August Busch III, Torre reached postseason play just once in his career and had yet to manage in the American League. Added concern came from the prospect of working for Steinbrenner, who, in the words of George Costanza, “fires people as if it were a bodily function”. “George Steinbrenner wants to win, I want to win, he’s the boss, there’s no question in my mind,” Torre said that day. Being fired from three earlier managing jobs, Torre believed he had nothing to lose in his pursuit of an elusive World Series ring. The New York tabloids saw it otherwise and said Torre was “Naive at best, desperate at worst”, and a “puppet” for the volatile Steinbrenner (New York Daily News).
By the time the 1996 season rolled around, Torre became the ideal Yankees manager to everybody’s surprise. His calming, reassuring nature provided a swift contrast from the uptight Showalter and became one of the primary keys to the Yankees capturing their first World Series title since 1978 that fall. Torre would add three more titles to his trophy case by the end of his Yankees tenure and became a perennial fixture in October along with a “Core 4” of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. Upon leaving the Yankees after the 2007 season, Torre became the third-winningest manager in franchise history and eventually earned a permanent place in Cooperstown.
Thanks to his influence in New York during his managerial tenure, Joe Torre remained a viable member of Major League Baseball, serving in the Commissioner’s office as an Executive Vice President of Baseball. Overseeing all on-field matters, Torre commands the ultimate respect of both players and coaches as one of the most impactful officials in the game. Unlike other sports, a baseball manager has minimal effect on the overall outcome of a team. Credit or blame are typically determined by the manager’s roster and his role leaves for much debate. There is no debate that Torre knew what he was getting himself into twenty years after arriving to a slew of skepticism in New York and used it to guide him to immeasurable heights.
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