After he left Atlanta the first time, Torre “grew up”

Joe Torre and the Dodgers were merely passing through our town, and Joe was not happy at all. “This is our only trip to Atlanta, three games against the Braves, then next week they come out to L.A. for four games.
“And that’s it. It’s not like we’re in the same league, like interleague play. Makes no sense, and it’s probably not going to change,” Torre said, resting behind the desk in the visiting manager’s office at Turner Field.

It’s coincidental that a record Torre holds should break into the news, that for hitting into four double plays in a game, when he was a New York Met. “I’d like to thank Felix Millan for making it possible,” he said impishly. “He singled four times in front of me.”

Torre has been carrying on a fractious relationship with this town since he was fat and l4, when he came to visit his brother, Frank, then the first baseman for the old Atlanta Crackers. Joe returned as the first Braves catcher when they relocated from Milwaukee in 1966. He already was an All-Star catcher and broke in here with a flair. He hit two home runs in the opening game, which the Braves lost to Pittsburgh in 13 innings.
But he became a thorn in the side of Paul Richards, the general manager, who cheerfully traded him to the Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda and pronounced it “good riddance.” I shall not elaborate here, though Torre had become well acquainted with local gendarmes.

This, perhaps, puts the best spin on it, Joe’s own pronouncement as I left his office: “When I went to St. Louis, I grew up,” he said, a parting statement that he knew required no elaboration.

It was pure irony that he should return as manager in 1982, improbable successor to Bobby Cox — the same — and later to be succeeded by the improbable Eddie Haas. Torre did produce a division championship his first season, but as a manager, he was ahead of schedule. The next six seasons he spent in the broadcast booth of the California Angels, which in most situations would indicate that his managing career was over. Dumped by the Mets, then by the Braves, this would appear to be his burial ground as a manager.

But not for fast there — St. Louis again. This time the Cardinals came calling once more. This time he followed Whitey Herzog, and that marriage lasted another six years. Then, as I understand it, the late Arthur Richman, a sort of an unofficial consultant to George Steinbrenner, suggested Torre. You know, a nice guy from Brooklyn. How could you go wrong?

The Yankees? The place where managers go to die?

Not Joe Torre, and as Paul Harvey might have said, you know the rest of the story. Championship after championship after championship. Then charm wore thin, and when the Dodgers came calling, it was a natural blending. Another division championship, but the Dodgers lost in the playoff to the Phillies.
Torre brushes it off as managerial genius. Pure scoffery. “It’s just a game and I’m rolling along with it,” he said, resting comfortably atop the NL West.

But I had to ask about Manny Ramirez, his game, his hair. Are all those braids his own natural growth?
“He grew it himself,” Joe said. “People just don’t understand him. When we’re home, he’s at the park by 1 o’ clock for night games. He takes his game seriously, don’t forget that.”

Andruw Jones, what went wrong? “He didn’t do himself any favors. He kept saying he’d get his home runs, but he didn’t. Nobody could understand.”

Do you call pitches from the dugout, as so many managers do? “I don’t call pitches. I was a catcher, and I wouldn’t have liked it. I may call throw-overs now and then, but I don’t call pitches.”

Uniforms down to the ankles, how about that? “Oh, I wear mine low. I just don’t want to be out of touch. But I don’t like it.”

Anything else? Yes, “When I went to St. Louis, I grew up,” he repeated, and he knew I knew what he meant.

37 comments Add your comment

ff

August 12th, 2009
5:15 pm

i’m amazed that this passes for an article. a bunch of mindless reminiscing.

bali smith

August 12th, 2009
5:51 pm

Thank you for a great article on Joe torre. It is a pleasure to read your articles. I just wish you wrote more often.

Putting On The Foil

August 12th, 2009
6:00 pm

Nice read Mr. Bisher, but that has been the case for 40 years + years since I’ve been reading your articles. Wish the new guys could tell ‘em like you do.

falcon

August 12th, 2009
6:53 pm

Torre was a popular player here. I never understood why they traded him.

misterwax

August 12th, 2009
7:19 pm

If you have ever been to see the low class strippers down at the Clairmont Lounge on Ponce de Leon (Blondie comes to mind), then you will know why Torre got into so much trouble with the local cops….it is a phenomenon called drunken bar-fighting….still happens today quite often and will de-rail almost any man’s career…..just like Torre’s….like he said, when he got to St.Louis, he grew up, slimmed down and won a batting title….

Ken Stallings

August 12th, 2009
8:35 pm

Nice insightful column, Furman.

Apparently lost on a few who still have that “growing up” ahead of them!

rhynster

August 12th, 2009
9:00 pm

Bizarre.

That was like reading a Wikipedia entry on Joe Torre for the first 3/4 of the article. Nothing more than a career timeline.

Then, at the very end, Bisher throws out a bunch of interesting quotes like he was taking out the trash.

Couldn’t we have gotten more into the Q&A instead of the history that we all already know?

Gene

August 12th, 2009
10:06 pm

Torre grew up to become one of the all-time great managers, and he was a pretty good hitter in St. Louis.

Mitch C

August 12th, 2009
10:24 pm

Furman, I think that one of Ted Turner’s biggest mistakes as owner was to fire Joe Torre. I became a Braves fan in 1983, when, as we all know, Torre was the manager.

Yes, the Braves did blow a 6 1-2 lead with six weeks to go in 1983. (I dont even like to remember that, as it took me eight years to see them reach October). Then, in Torre’s second year, Bob Horner was gone again for most of the season, and Ted fired Torre. After that comes Eddie Haas, who might have been the worst manager in baseball, ever, followed by Chuck Tanner, a nice guy, with a bad team, and finally Russ Nixon, until Bobby rescued us.

I’ve always liked Torre. Even with the Braves, I thought he was a good man. He’s grown up a lot since then, and if there’s anyone you could say has “class” in MLB, it’s Joe Torre.

Obviously, being a Braves fan, I hope the Braves get to the playoffs, and win it all this year. If we cant, then I hope Torre does. (As long as he doesnt knock us out of the playoffs if we get there, lol). It would be nice to see him win a championship in another city, and to stick it to the Yankees for letting him go.

Mitch

SC Dawg

August 12th, 2009
10:52 pm

My dad, God rest his soul, was a great baseball man in the Colt & Pony leagues of the 50’s and 60’s never could understand why Ted let Torre go either. And as we ge older, we all know that dad was a lot smarter than we thought he was. Now, I always will wonder why Ted let Torre go.
Dad we miss you and your baseball knowledge.

Shoeless Joe

August 12th, 2009
11:04 pm

Don’t screw with Furman or I’ll come back down there and introduce my foot to your a$s.

Noodle

August 12th, 2009
11:14 pm

Classic Bisher style, storylines and some stuff not “everyone” knows, rynster.
ff – If you’re not happy with your life, do something about it.
You guys need to go look up the meaning of “grace”.

Ted Striker

August 13th, 2009
3:04 am

Excellent article, Mr. Bisher. Now if I can only remember to use the word “gendarmes” to impress my friends.

misterwax

August 13th, 2009
3:48 am

Turner cut Joe Torre loose because Ted was in love with Henry Aaron and Aaron thought Joe Torre was a white supremacist….A hangover from the clubhouse days when they were teammates…still does today. And THAT is the only reason he was cut….beause Hank Aaron said so.

Toby Hill

August 13th, 2009
8:20 am

I believe I remember Torre getting thrown out a first base from left field in the late 1960s. Was I dreaming? I do remember he was very heavy and very slow.

P

August 13th, 2009
8:49 am

Furman, good story…I remember it all.

Who can lead an effort to get rid of the pants down to the shoes? It’s really horrible and I blame Bud Selig for letting them do it.

GeorgiaDuck

August 13th, 2009
8:55 am

Thanks Furman! I had a Joe Torre bat which I received on bat day here. Joe was traded because I think he had a clause in his contract that he was supposed to get a brand new Cadillac every year. Paul Richards balked at that in 1969 and traded him to St. Louis. Joe won a batting title there and an MVP.

JCubby

August 13th, 2009
9:36 am

You’ve gotta love a rare sports story that makes you look up the meaning of a word. My only question is, what were the French Police doing in Atlanta?

FanAtl

August 13th, 2009
11:45 am

Mr Bisher-thanks for writing about Joe. I understand he was a real character and virtually indestructible. Smitty a mutual friend who parks your car on occasion was a catcher in the Braves farm system behind Torre. Smitty has some good stories about Joe! It just goes to show that we all need time to grow up.

Jimv

August 13th, 2009
11:50 am

To “ff”: I’m 79, and sports is my favorite pastime because of “mindless reminiscing”. Thanks for the latest memory, Furman.

LARRY

August 13th, 2009
12:11 pm

JOE TORRE WAS FIRED BECAUSE THE BRAVES TRADED BRETT BUTLER AND RELEASED
PHIL NIEKRO. JOE STILL THINKS THOSE WERE GOOD MOVES.

Pepe Frias

August 13th, 2009
1:08 pm

Joe got fired because he slept with a ball girl. Or was it a bat boy?

Uknown Hinson

August 13th, 2009
1:42 pm

Am I missing something, I don’t understand the point of this article? Hey Furman what was that about the talent on the farm drying up? Prado, McCann, Hansen, LaRoache, Medlin, Chipper, Kelly Johnson, Escobar, Brooks Conrad, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward (#1 propect nationwide), almost every pitcher in the Danville Braves organization, now Minor from Vandy…. Man you hit it on the head. You even said in the same article that Smoltz came up through our farm system???? Maybe that’s why you don’t write anymore.. because you can’t!! Thanks for the good articles many years ago but I have to thank AJC for not allowing you to write as much at the same time.

Furman Bishor

August 13th, 2009
1:44 pm

For my next column, I’m going to write about how Bobby Jones and myself got into all sorts of mischief together when we were boys.

Furman Bisher

August 13th, 2009
1:45 pm

I’m so old, I can’t even spell my own name anymore.

Furman Bisher

August 13th, 2009
1:46 pm

Let me tell you something else, Ty Cobb was a hell of a fun guy to hang out with when we were teenagers. We engaged in all sorts of shenanigans and tom foolery. Those were some wild times.

Uknown Hinson

August 13th, 2009
1:50 pm

There you go… That’s what I would rather hear about, Ty Cobb was one of the most intriguing humans of all time, write about something no one knows about Ty Cobb. But when I hear a dogging of my Braves and the article isn’t accurate I get upset.

Cecil34

August 13th, 2009
2:16 pm

The reason that Torre was traded is because on the team’s charter flight back to Atlanta back in 68, a drunken Torre got into a fistfight with Aaron. Aaron popped off to Torre, and thus the fight was on, broken up by the other players.

Since Aaron was the face of the franchise at the time, Torre was traded.

There had been bad blood between them for years before this incident anyway. Reasons vary.

But the final nail in the coffin was this fistfight. I was told Torre could pack a punch and Aaron came out on the worse end of it.

Paul Richards of course was furious.

shankit

August 13th, 2009
2:35 pm

Interesting story about Aaron and Torre.
When did they move the left field fence in to allow Aaaron
to catch The Babe. I recall they moved it in about 15 feet.
How many more At Bats did Aaron have than The Babe,
I think it was in the thousands.
I think The Babe had about 25% of his AB’s as Base of Balls.
Wished he had had more AB’s and less intentional BoB’s

Mac

August 13th, 2009
3:37 pm

Bring back stirrups. These pants look like the local softball league.

Hillbilly Deluxe

August 13th, 2009
9:47 pm

I was at the ballpark (Fulton County Stadium or Atlanta Stadium as we called it then) on a Saturday afternoon, Torre first year as a Cardinal. Seems like he didn’t play the night before. First time he came to the plate, he got booed big time and wound up homering and hitting a double in the game I think. Bob Gibson was on the hill and tagged out Aaron in a rundown when he tried to steal 2nd base. Don’t remember who was pitching for the Braves that day. There was a rain delay in the game and I wound up bumping into Bob Didier’s grandmother and talking to her a few minutes. Real nice lady.

[...] After he left Atlanta the first time, Torre “grew up” Joe Torre and the Dodgers were merely passing through our town, and Joe was not happy at all. [...]

cliff grant

August 13th, 2009
11:12 pm

Torre was a neighbor at the Georgetown of Atlanta Apartments, THE complex to live in back in the day.
He was friendly and funny. His wife made as many headlines as he did with her DUIs. Torre was enormously quotable. Toward the end of a lousy season, he was asked to comment on it. “I’d say we started slow and tapered off.”

Woody Woodward

August 14th, 2009
3:12 am

I’ll never forget a milk commercial that Torre made in ‘67 or ‘68. He was hawking the wholesome beverage looking at the camera with circles under his eyes the color of my wife’s mascara. As a young eight year old lad of Italian decent, I thought it was a matter of the genes. Now I know better.

That said, Torre was my favorite player in those days (Rico Carty was a close second) and was sad as a boy could be when the Braves traded him.

I wish that Furman Bisher had not been so cryptic with this article. What really went on with Torre in those years? I’m not one for the tell-all public confessional, but if you’re not going to tell the whole story, don’t start it.

dave

August 14th, 2009
9:38 am

JIM MINTER
RETIRED ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION EDITOR
Published: July 13, 2009
“Many years ago, when big-city newspapers were still real newspapers, there was assembled in The Atlanta Journal sports department a Band of Brothers arguably unequaled in talent and dedication in all of journalism.
Included were John Logue, later to become a founding editor of Southern Living Magazine and a prolific writer of fiction; Terry Kay, the hugely successful author whose books have been made into movies; Lee Walburn, national award-winning magazine editor and columnist; Gregory Favre, editor of major newspapers from Florida to California; Furman Bisher, one of the best and most durable of a small handful of truly great newspaper columnists to emerge in the 20th century; and for a brief and shining moment, Lewis Grizzard.”

Enough about Furman’s ability, has there ever been a tougher editor than Jim Minter.

Finally, just coming up with the word “gendarmes” @ 90 years young, I got an vocabulary lesson, too.

Pig N' Whistle

August 15th, 2009
6:33 am

Remember all the taxi cabs with the Sans Souci Nightclub ad on the roof ?

Joe Torre and Hank Aaron « Chamblee54

August 15th, 2009
11:51 pm

[...] Bisher has a piece at the fishwrapper site about Joe Torre. The punch line is that Mr. Torre “grew up” when the Braves traded him [...]