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Regular JOE
Tom Verducci
October 28, 1996
A behind-the-scenes look at easygoing Yankees manager Joe Torre as he prepared for the games of his dreams
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October 28, 1996

Regular Joe

A behind-the-scenes look at easygoing Yankees manager Joe Torre as he prepared for the games of his dreams

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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 an ovation.

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.

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