Placido Domingo wailed on the CD player as the white Ford
Explorer clacked over the metal grates of the Macombs Dam
Bridge, with the Harlem River gently rolling underneath in the
night's darkness. In front of the truck, as vast as the Montana
sky, stood a luminous Yankee Stadium. The old baseball palace
glowed with a grandeur made operatic by the tenor's voice. "Look
at it," Joe Torre said from behind the wheel. He smiled at its
beauty, especially the illuminated marquee with the black
capital letters. Torre, the manager of the New York Yankees,
read it aloud, as if to make sure it was real. "'World Series.
Saturday. Eight p.m.' Nice. That is nice."
A dream, twice given up as lost, had finally come into view.
Torre fell silent again as he continued home to New Rochelle,
N.Y., after a visit to see his 64-year-old brother, Frank, at a
Manhattan hospital. The scheduled start of the 92nd World
Series, the first one in which Joe Torre, 56, would partake, was
24 hours away. No man in baseball history had waited this long
to participate in the World Series--4,272 games as a player and
manager, spanning 37 years.
The torrential rainstorm that postponed Game 1 and made him wait
one more day caused him no anxiety. After all, Torre is a man
who walked out of one of his first meetings with Yankees owner
George Steinbrenner to be with his pregnant wife, Alice, and now
enjoys bottle-feeding their 10-month-old daughter, Andrea.
"Although the first time he did it," Alice says, "I had to tell
him to shut off the football game and look in her eyes."
October 28, 1996
This is a man so at ease that on Saturday night he found it more
important to bring home a bottle of ketchup than the voluminous
scouting reports on the Atlanta Braves. Alice, 39, had
telephoned him at his office to ask him to pick up the
condiment. The thick, three-ring binder with the information
about the Braves could wait until tomorrow. "If I bring it home,
I won't get to it," he said that night about the scouting
reports. "At this point it's mostly a matter of execution,
anyway. The one thing you might pick up are tendencies. Bobby
[Cox] hasn't changed since I managed against him last year. He
plays for a lead early in the game and then goes with his best
defense late. But he's not going to trick you. It's like
football. When you have the talent, you don't have to fool
people. You go right at them."
Unlike Cox, who has the best rotation in baseball with
righthanders John Smoltz and Greg Maddux and lefthanders Tom
Glavine and Denny Neagle, Torre did not have an obvious decision
about the order in which he should pitch his starters in the
Series. He had to decide whether to use lefthander Kenny Rogers,
the jangle of nerves who looked so awful in two postseason
starts that Torre thought he might have been injured. Last
Thursday, in a Larchmont, N.Y., women's clothing store while
Alice shopped for a new outfit, Torre decided Rogers would start
Game 4 in Atlanta if the Braves beat the St. Louis Cardinals
later that night for the National League pennant. He had called
his pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre, from the store on a
cellular phone to tell him.
"I don't think I would have pitched Rogers against St. Louis,"
Torre said. "But with the Braves you want lefthanders. Plus, at
any time, Rogers may have a real good game in him, like he did
in September against Toronto and Baltimore."
Torre also had to determine the order he would pitch his top
three starters, lefthanders Andy Pettitte and Jimmy Key and
righthander David Cone. Even before Atlanta clinched, he decided
Pettitte and Key would pitch the first two games at Yankee
Torre's decision to use Pettitte in Game 1, along with the fact
that the designated hitter is used in the American League park,
prompted Cox to start righthand-hitting rookie Andruw Jones in
leftfield. Jones, 19, is the anti-Torre, having reached the
World Series after two months in the big leagues and 4,233 fewer
games. Last Saturday, when Stottlemyre briefed his staff on how
to pitch the Atlanta hitters, this was the report on Jones: dead
fastball hitter who likes the ball up. Get him out with breaking
What happens on Sunday night? Pettitte throws a 3-and-2 high
fastball to Jones in his first at bat. Gone. Righthander Brian
Boehringer hangs a 3-and-2 slider to Jones his next time up.
Gone. Homer Jones double dipped, driving in five runs in the
12-1 Atlanta blowout.
So this is what befell Torre after all those years of waiting:
the most lopsided Yankees loss in the franchise's 188-game World
Series history and a margin of defeat unsurpassed in 92 World
Series openers. "I didn't wait my whole life for this game,"
Torre said late Sunday night. "I waited for the Series."
If you were looking for a real World Series logo--not the garish
patches hot-stamped on the side of the Braves' and the Yankees'
caps--you could do worse than this: a middle-aged man with a
shadowy mug straight out of an Edward G. Robinson flick, weeping
in the dugout. Torre cried right there after the Yankees closed
out the Baltimore Orioles in five games in the American League
Championship Series. That moment made Alice think about 1984,
shortly after Torre had suffered the second of his three firings
as a manager, this one in Atlanta, and the two of them were
watching television. A TV commentator asked a celebrity, "How
would you like to be remembered?"
"That's a great question," said Alice, who was dating Torre at
the time. "Joe, how would you answer that?"
Torre shook his head and said, "I never realized my dream."
He took another shot at it in 1990, as the manager of the
Cardinals, but that ended five years later with another firing.
He thought his chances of getting to the World Series were gone.
"So when I saw him crying in Baltimore, it just blew me away,"
said Alice, who is Torre's third wife and has been married to
him since 1987. "I know how much it meant to him. I've never
seen him cry like that. That's when I could really tell what it
meant to him."
The day after the Yankees clinched, the two of them ate lunch at
a diner in Queens, N.Y. A man approached, pressed his nose
within inches of Torre's face and gasped, "Are you...are
you...." He could not even say Torre's name. After Alice and Joe
finished their meals and got up to leave, the place erupted in
Torre came home and pushed the PLAY button on his answering
machine--there were 20 congratulatory messages. In half of them
the caller was crying. A little later a telegram from Sandy
Koufax arrived. By the end of the week he would also hear from
Willie Mays, George Brett, Milton Berle, Billy Crystal, Bill
Cosby and scores of others. "Just sitting there, listening to
these people crying on the answering machine, one call after
another, that's when it hit me," Torre said. "You think you have
this thing contained. You're so caught up in your own little
world. You don't know how far-reaching this thing is. But then I
saw the way people reacted at the diner, and then I got a
telegram from Sandy Koufax, and I started to understand.
"I'll tell you, I thought I had this thing hidden, even from
family. I thought only Alice knew how much it meant to me. But
last week I could tell that they knew."
"Ha!" Frank said, with a laugh, when told later of his brother's
revelation. "He made it clear to me that he wanted to win. It
was the only reason for taking the Yankees job."
With the help of his family, whose characters seem to have
jumped out of a Woody Allen film, Torre turned the biggest city
in the country into a small town. You couldn't watch the local
news without seeing a Torre family story. There was Joe, the
youngest, managing in the Bronx; Frank, awaiting a heart
transplant in Manhattan; Sister Marguerite, running the Nativity
of the Blessed Virgin Mary elementary school in Queens; and Rae,
living in the same house on East 34th Street and Avenue T in
Brooklyn where they all grew up. Another brother, Rocco, died in
June of a heart attack.
It was difficult to tell what brought them closer last week--the
World Series or the telephone. Sister Marguerite, for instance,
phoned Joe regularly in his office. "Don't you do any work over
there?" Joe asked her last Thursday. "Remember when you first
went to the convent and they wouldn't even let you go to a
baseball game?" When they were done chatting, the last thing Joe
said was, "Love you."
Likewise, Joe spoke to Frank at least twice a day. Last Friday,
Joe stopped at the hospital to visit. Six firefighters, their
heavy rubber boots clomping on the marble floor, stopped him in
the lobby and handed him a gift for Frank. Said one of them, "I
had your sister when I was in elementary school." Said Joe, "She
was tough, huh?"
After Joe entered Frank's room, a policeman knocked on the door
and handed Joe a handwritten note. It said, "You're invited to
dinner at Engine 84, Ladder 34. 9 p.m. Soupa de Pesce." The
World Series? To Torre it seemed more like a church picnic.
"It's been amazing the way the city has come together," said Joe.
Frank, who played seven years in the majors between 1956 and
'63, has been hospitalized for 10 weeks. He is one of those
old-time New Yorkers who calls newspaper articles "write-ups"
and says, "Then I says..." when telling a story. By Frank's
estimation Rae calls him eight times a day, always asking,
"What's new?" One time Frank surveyed his tiny hospital room,
checked out the tether of intravenous tubes and barked into the
phone, "New? I just went for a swim in the Hudson River, whaddya
mean, what's new?"
No wonder Rae told him, "Frank, maybe you'll get the heart of a
woman and soften up a little bit."
"Frank's been like a father figure to me," said Joe, whose
father, Joe Sr., a policeman, separated from his wife, Margaret,
when Joe was in elementary school. Both parents are deceased.
"My father was a little abusive. It wasn't until after I became
a big league player that we renewed our relationship. Frank took
care of me financially. When he was in Korea during the war, I'd
write him letters: 'Dear Frank, How are your doing? Please send
This is the way Frank remembers it: "Dear Frank, Please send me
Last Friday, Frank kept referring to recent newspaper articles
about the family, though Joe kept explaining how he had not seen
them. Joe doesn't read the New York papers or listen to sports
radio, and when he told the national media that last week, one
reporter said in disbelief, "What do you do?"
"He said that," Torre said later, "like there was nothing else
Baseball, even the World Series, does not consume him. Torre
watched only a few innings of Games 6 and 7 of the National
League Championship Series, preferring to take Alice to dinner
one night and enjoy a team party the next. He gave his players
last Thursday off rather than have them work out four straight
days. Torre spent the afternoon shopping with Alice and playing
in his backyard with Andrea and Geena, their dog. Last November,
only weeks after Steinbrenner hired him, Torre bolted out of a
meeting in Tampa with the Boss to be with Alice, who was eight
months pregnant. "O.K., fine. You can go," Steinbrenner said.
"But the day after that baby is born, your ass is mine."
Torre has three children--Michael, 31; Lauren, 30; and Tina,
27--from his two previous marriages, and he regrets not having
been around more while they were growing up. Although his two
older daughters spend much of their time abroad, he is close to
all the kids, and they are all in town for the Series. Said
Alice, "Andrea has changed him. He used to come home after a
loss and it would take him two hours to get over it. Now the
first thing he does is pick her up and he's smiling. Sometimes
she'll be sleeping, and he'll walk into her room. The next thing
I know, he's bringing her in to me saying, 'She woke up.' Right."
After the lopsided loss in Game 1, Torre had to endure a lengthy
meeting in his office with Steinbrenner and the Yankees' special
adviser, Reggie Jackson. Steinbrenner emerged smiling, but with
one of those ominous grins you'd get from the principal upon
being summoned to his office. "We had six days off and were a
little flat," Steinbrenner told reporters. "Joe will fix it."
It was midnight by the time Torre stepped out of Yankee Stadium
and into a miserable drizzle for his ride home. Even on this
night the place glowed to him. Before he got into the Explorer,
he thought about the first pitch of Game 1, about the thousands
of flashbulbs twinkling at almost the same time and how he had
never seen anything like it. He thought about standing near home
plate for the pregame introductions, about the moment the World
Series at last became real.
"I remember thinking about how there were no other scores on the
scoreboard tonight," he said. "Nobody else was playing. You're
at the center of the world. It was a great feeling, a feeling
I'll never forget. And it's something no one can ever take from