Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #425, Joe Torre (Article 79) (Copy)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
Joe Torre never played for the Yankees – his fame came as the team’s manager of the team during one of the most successful periods in their long history.
We know the story – Torre, who had never even been to a World Series in his long career as a player or manager, becomes the Yankees manager for the 1996 season and the Yankees remarkably reach and then win the World Series. It’s a great story. It’s one of the best.
In 1997, the Yankees faced heart break, losing to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series.
In 1998, the Yankees come back with a vengeance and seemingly win every game during the season and the post season. 1998 was a season for the ages. They were back on top as World Series champs.
Then they won it all again in 1999.
As a manager, Joe Torre won four World Series with the Yankees. The other years weren’t too shabby either. The following is the complete Torre record as Yankees manager:
1996: 92-70 – Won World Series
1997: 96-66 – Lost Division Series
1998: 114-48 – Won World Series
1999: 98-64 – Won World Series
2000: 87-74 – Won World Series
2001: 95-65 – Lost World Series
2002: 103-58 – Lost Division Series
2003: 101-61 – Lost World Series
2004: 101-61 – Lost American League Championship Series
2005: 95-67 – Lost Division Series
2006: 97-95 – Lost Division Series
2007: 94-68 – Lost Division Series
And then, that was that. Joe Torre was done as Yankees manager. Even with all his success, when the Yankees stopped getting to the promised land, Torre’s days were over.
In total, Joe Torre’s Yankees won 90+ games in eleven of his twelve seasons as manager. He reached six World Series. He won four of them. The Yankees were in the post season in every season that Joe Torre was the manager.
The Yankees went 1,173-767 (.605) under Joe Torre.
Four Yankees managers in history won one thousand or more games. There were:
Joe McCarthy: 1,460
Joe Torre: 1,173
Casey Stengel: 1,149
Miller Huggins: 1,067
All four of those managers are in Baseball’s Hall-of-Fame.
Since Joe Torre has left, the Yankees have been to one World Series, in 2009, a World Series they won. They have not been back since.
When Joe Torre managed the Yankees, there was a narrative that developed among some that said that anyone would manage the Yankees and get them to win. That proved to be untrue. Maybe others could have managed the Yankees to many wins, but it was Torre that brought them to that next level.
There was something special about Joe Torre. They players respected him, but he was demanding and he had high expectations. The team played a smart brand of baseball and the results spoke for themselves.
The Yankees of today can’t find that magic. They win, but they don’t inspire that same aura that they did under Joe Torre.
Maybe we don’t appreciate what we have until its gone.
I need to make a quick point here, even though he wasn’t a Yankee, about Joe Torre’s playing days.
In short, the man was a heck of a player.
From 1960 to 1974, Joe Torre, for his career, over 1,955 games, was a .300 hitter. Torre was a nine time All-Star. He won a Gold Glove. He won a batting title. He even won an MVP.
Over his full career, Joe Torre accumulated 57.5 WAR.
Torre’s lifetime WAR ranks higher than many Hall-of-Fame players including George Sisler, Bill Dickey, Bill Terry (these are not fringe Hall-of-Famers), Joe Gordon, Hank Greenberg (yes, Hank Greenberg), Joe Sewell, Joe Medwick, Wee Willie Keeler, Tony Perez… (hey, that’s an impressive list!) and it goes on and on and on and on.
It’s not fair to compare pitchers to everyday players but, just to understand just what 57.5 WAR means, Torre’s WAR was greater than the Yankees’ greatest starting pitcher, Whitey Ford (57.0) and their greatest closer (and the greatest closer ever) Mariano Rivera (56.3).
(I can imagine a talk between Joe and Mariano, “Yeah Mo, you were great, but look at the numbers… I was better.” One of the beautiful things, though, about Joe Torre is his humanness and humility. I am sure he would have never said that.
But it would have been fun if he did.)
We are obsessed with numbers. We give certain numbers meaningless status. We assign great weight to certain round numbers… like a .300 batting average.
A player that plays as long as Joe Torre who end his career with a .300 batting average is usually considered a Hall-of-Famer. But Torre didn’t reach the Hall as a player.
We also, sometimes, don’t know when it’s time to say goodbye. Sometimes we hang on too long.
Joe Torre spent the final three years of his career as a New York Met. He set a record as a Met one game by grounding into four double plays. My dad was at that game.
As a New York Met, Joe Torre hit .257 over the final 254 games of his career from 1975-1977.
Those final games brought Torre’s lifetime batting average down to .297.
It just wasn’t .300.
(But in the end, was there really much of a difference?)
Joe Torre was a great player and a great manager. He was one of the rarest of baseball legends.
I’m glad he was a Yankee, if only as the manager, but what a manager he was!