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George Steinbrenner was frantic after the Yankees lost the first two games of the 1996 World Series, until manager Joe Torre assured him that they would win Game 3 and come back to win the title. Steinbrenner cited this conversation for the rest of his life as an example of Torre's steady leadership, but Torre once smiled and admitted his prediction wasn't really that bold. If he had been wrong, he probably would've been fired like so many of his predecessors.
But Torre was right, and the teams he managed played in five World Series over six seasons, winning four championships. His personality was perfect for his players in how he worked to protect them from pressure -- from the relentless thirst for success of Yankees fans, the media, and the owner. He didn't start fires in the way Billy Martin had as Yankees manager; with good humor and grace and his easy manner, he defused problems, making the environment a little more bearable.
Some of the Yankees players thought that Torre operated under a star system, in which players such as Paul O'Neill and Mariano Rivera were protected and others were not. Torre surprised some of the players when he told reporters that Chad Curtis acted on his own when he infamously declined to do a postgame interview with Jim Gray after a 1999 World Series game; even when Torre was informed by Tino Martinez that the players had agreed to boycott Gray, the manager didn't set the record straight.
In the last years that Torre worked for Steinbrenner, the owner resented the manager and believed he didn't give Steinbrenner enough credit for helping him to achieve managerial royalty. By the time he left the Yankees, after all, Torre was viewed by a lot of Yankees fans as St. Joe. But after covering the Yankees in those years, I'll always believe Steinbrenner never fully understood how important Torre's consistent demeanor was for the players, who thrived in what may be the last dynasty in baseball history.
-- Buster Olney
• BORN: July 18, 1940
• FROM: Brooklyn, New York
• TWITTER: @joetorre
• POSITION: Manager/C/1B/3B
• SEASONS (Player): 18 (1960-77)
• SEASONS (Manager): 29 (1977-84, 1990-2010)
• TEAMS (Player): Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets
• TEAMS (Manager): Mets, Braves, Cardinals, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers
• RECORD (Manager): 2,326-1,997
• PLAYER STATS: 252 HR; .817 OPS; 57.6 WAR
• Won six AL pennants (1996, 1998-2001, 2003) and four World Series (1996, 1998-2000)
• Teams finished in first place 13 times and qualified for playoffs 15 times
• His 2,326 wins are fifth-most among managers all time
• Won Manager of the Year Award twice (1996, 1998)
• Posted a .297 career batting average with 2,342 hits and 1,185 RBIs in 18 seasons
Joe Torre kept the noise down and the World Series titles coming for the Yankees http://t.co/HACN1G9GS8 pic.twitter.com/4I53aBixR9- Canadian Baseball (@CDNbaseball) July 24, 2014
Besides being a good manager, Joe Torre was a solid ballplayer, whether playing first base, third base and catching.- Gil Cividanes (@GilCividanes) July 25, 2014
Sure do miss @JoeTorre with #NYY #Yankees! Wonderful to see him receive well-deserved honor of @BaseballHall #HOF! Much #Respect Joe Torre!!- Janet Lyn (@Janet_Lyn) July 25, 2014
@MLB @BaseballHall Joe Torre IS the Yankees.- Scooter (@tony_7__) July 25, 2014
"Mr. Torre is like a second father to me. I learned so much from him, but what sticks with me the most is the way he treated everyone with respect and fairness. In my opinion, it was his greatest attribute."
"He was our leader and he was also our security blanket. When I played for Joe, I felt like he was my dad. We played the game with respect and honor, and we took those qualities from him."
"The first thing I think of is how much of an importance he placed on developing and cultivating relationships. Not only with players, but with everyone he came in contact with. It's something that was the bedrock for his success."
"Competing at the highest level is not about winning. It's about preparation, courage, understanding and nurturing your people, and heart. Winning is the result."