SI Flashback: The wait is over (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday October 10, 2007 11:40PM; Updated: Thursday October 11, 2007 12:15AM
"When he got the heart," Torre said, "I felt like this was meant to happen, like we were meant to win. I mean, doctors Oz and Rose doing the surgery? Come on. It's been like an out-of-body experience."
By then he was so sure his Yankees would knock off the defending world champions that before he left home for the Stadium for Game 6 he placed an order for three cases and two magnums of champagne. "Ali," he told his wife, "we're going to have a party." He was right again. By the next morning, with a 3-2 victory having assured the Yankees a place among the greatest comeback teams in postseason history, nearly all the bubbly was gone.
"It's overwhelming," Torre said two days after the clincher. "I'm not sure when this will all sink in. It's like an avalanche. The attention, the emotion...it's like an avalanche."
As has happened to Christmas, the meaning of the World Series has been obscured by rampant commercialism. In the New York clubhouse before Game 1, for instance, someone from an officially licensed cap company hot-stamped garish official World Series patches on the side of the Yankees' caps, heretofore one of the most unchangeable of baseball icons. This caused the Yankees to look like the walking billboards that NASCAR drivers have become. The purpose? To sell more official World Series caps, of course.
But if you were looking for the real World Series logo, you couldn't do much better than this: a middle-aged man with a shadowy mug straight out of an Edward G. Robinson flick weeping in the dugout. At the end of the American League Championship Series, Torre cried right there in the dugout at Camden Yards -- and even more when his family greeted him in the clubhouse -- realizing he'd finally made it to the Series after the Yankees completed a five-game victory over Baltimore.
That moment made Alice think back to 1984, shortly after Torre had endured the second of his three firings, this one in Atlanta. They were watching television, and some TV person asked some celebrity, "How would you like to be remembered?"
"That's a great question," Alice said. "Joe, how would you answer that?"
Torre shook his head and said, "I never realized my dream."
He took another shot at managing, with St. Louis in 1990, but that ended five years later with another canning. "Gone," he thought about getting to the World Series. "My window is closed."
Said Alice last week, "When I saw him crying in Baltimore, it just blew me away. I know how much it meant to him. I'm a crier, but I've never seen him cry like that. That's when I could really tell what it meant to him."
Torre was overwhelmed by the cards he received from family and friends. "I thought I had this thing hidden, even from family," he said. "I thought only Ali knew how much it meant to me."
"Ha!" laughed Frank. "He made it very clear to me that he wanted to win. It was the only reason for taking the Yankees job."
With the help of his family, Torre turned the country's biggest city into a small town. It was hard to find a borough that didn't have one of the Torres in it or a TV that didn't have one of them on it: 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 in which they all grew up. (Another brother, Rocco, died in June of a heart attack.)
"Frank's been like a father figure to me," said Joe, whose deceased father left the family when Joe was in elementary school. "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 you doing? Please send me five dollars.'"
This is the way Frank remembers the letters: "'Dear Frank: Please send me 50 bucks.'"