So, as you all must know by now, I am the Special Events Assistant at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. All summer, I dealt directly with the private and hospitality side of the: HOFers, Inductees, and their families and guests. I helped coordinate each mode of transportation, lodging and credentials, as well as the execution of the many special events of the week. After being dressed in my best all week and working some of baseball fanciest evenings, my thoughts on Hall of Fame Weekend are going to be rather casual and obviously Torre-based…
Best week of my life, sharing the same oxygen as countless baseball legends that I’ve only seen on “Yankees Classics.” Cooperstown was absolutely CRAWLING with Hall of Famers and baseball fans (Induction crowd of over 48,000). Just to paint of picture of how big the Torre party was…Joe’s wife, Ali, is 1 of 16 siblings (whom are all in good health and get along well), each has a spouse and family of their own and brought them to Induction.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Board of Directors recently announced changes to the rules for election for recently retired players, reducing the length of stay on the ballot for players from a maximum of 15 to 10 years, along with a new balloting and registration process for Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters.
[He opened with,] “Thank you so much. Johnny Bench told me I have two minutes. Mark these words: Greg Maddux has no pulse. The man has no pulse. Look how excited he is!”
[then Maddux just smirked awkwardly, still not showing much emotion, as if he would blend in perfectly at the Cooperstown Wax Museum. Torre was so right! Haha]
“I want to thank everyone connected with the Hall of Fame, Jane, Jeff, Brad, Whitney. It’s been a marvelous weekend — nerve-wracking. You know, managing was nothing like this. And a lot of these guys back there kept me out of the Hall of Fame as a player. I can tell you that. (Laughter.) Try hitting against those guys,” Torre said.
[Awesome shout-out to my amazing, direct boss, Whitney btw! 😉 ]
“You know, I’m here, might as well cut to the Chase. I’m here because of the New York Yankees.”
[Everyone was aghast that Joe failed to thank “The Boss” in his speech but he did mention him! It wasn’t really a thank you or sweet memoriam reflection but who knows how their relationship really was. This is what Joe said about first coming to the Yankees:]
“Got a call from Gene Michael, Stick Michael, stepping down as general manager of the New York Yankees, and he was interviewing me to become general manager. Offered me the job. Ali was pregnant with our daughter, Andrea, and I said, “Is there vacation time?” And they said, “No, not working for George.” So I said, “Thank you, but maybe next time.” Then I get a call from a dear friend, Arthur Richmond, about a month or so later, to say, “Do you want to go on the short list for managers that’s going to replace Buck Showalter?” I said, “You bet.” And then the call came from George Steinbrenner that says, “You’re my man.”Well, I know George’s history, and I know my brother, Frank, said, “You’re crazy.” But I knew if I was ever going to find out if I was going to do this stuff, this was going to be my best opportunity.
A general manager hired the same year, Bob Watson, who is here with us today, worked with Bob for a couple of years, and then Brian Cashman, who is here also, today. As I say, it’s a team effort all the way through? And the interesting part in managing the Yankees that is never really came to mind, but when I was a teenager and my brother, Frank, was in the World Series in ’57 and ’58 against the Yankees, Braves winning in ’57 and the Yankees winning in ’58, little did I know the next two times these teams would meet in the World Series I would be managing the Yankees,” he recalled.
[Cash being there, to my knowledge, wasn’t true unless he literally snuck in the ceremony. I handed each VIP their credentials for the weekend and was at the hotel & the ceremony the entire time and never saw him. Saw Tom Brokaw a bunch, Billy Crystal, Bob Costas, Willie Randolph, Gene Monahan…but no Cashman.]
[Then Joe took us back through the thrilling moments of the 90s dynasty run, each story and play, us Yankee fans know and have heard over and over, like our favorite childhood storybook. I still hung on his every word.]
[On the Series in 2001]
“And then it was 9/11. 9/11, it was unbelievable. I think obviously we were knocked on our heels and it was such an emotional time for us, for everybody. But when that happened, baseball was the last thing we were thinking about. It was our loved ones. And we, you know, did our part. The Mets did their part, but we just felt there was so much motivation for us when we opened and played again after 9/11. I remember telling our players that the NY on our hat represents more than the Yankees. It was just an emotional ride.”
“I tell you, I’ve always been a Sinatra fan, but after 12 years of Mariano Rivera, Metallica sounds pretty good to me,” Torre said.
“And again, as Tony was talking about coaches, you can’t do this alone. You need people who are really dedicated and I had a great bunch. In fact, three of them are here today: Willie Randolph, Jose Cardenal and Lee Mazzilli. Thank you for being here guys. The two that couldn’t make it, Mel Stottlemyre, who is watching, I know, in Washington State, I didn’t know Mel very well but I admired what he did, especially in his years with the Mets, and did a magnificent job.
And then Don Zimmer. Don Zimmer, you know, aside from costing me a lot of money by introducing me to horse racing, eight years sitting next to me, he made me the manager that I turned into. He had more guts than I did, and sort of got me off the conservative platform. And I know he’s watching us from a racetrack in the sky somewhere, and I know his spirit is in my heart. And again, I’m here because of the fans, the fans, unbelievable.”
“I knew failure. But the only way you get better is to experience setbacks,” Torre said. “And when I took the Yankees job, I knew if I was ever going to find out if I could do this stuff that this would be the way. New York fans, I’m here because of you.”
[Powerful, poetic closing]
“There is a power to both patience and persistence. Baseball is a game of life. It’s not perfect, but it feels like it is. That’s the magic of it. We are responsible for giving it the respect it deserves. Our sport is part of the American soul, and it’s ours to borrow. Just for a while. To take care of it for a time and then pass it on to the next generation; when I say us, I mean as managers, as players. If all of us who love baseball are doing our jobs, then those who get the game from us will be as proud to be a part of it as we were, and we are. This game is a gift, and I am humbled, very humbled, to accept its greatest honor. Thank you very much.”
*Phrases found in [ ] are the writer’s notes and not part of Torre’s speech.