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 me $5.' "
This is the way Frank remembers it: "Dear Frank, Please send me 50 bucks."
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 in life."
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."