May 3, 2013 – Last September, I spent a day with former Yankees manager Joe Torre in his hometown of Brooklyn for a very special feature, which will be published in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine.
On the morning of Sept. 25 — which is the anniversary of Torre’s major league debut — he picked Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello and I up at Yankee Stadium, and we drove to the house the skipper grew up in.
After we arrived at the red-brick house on Avenue T in Brooklyn, we spent about an hour with Torre’s two sisters — one of whom still lives there. The three siblings spoke candidly about their abusive father and about the violence they witnessed in the very room we were in.
“My dad caused a lot of fear in our home,” Torre said. “A lot of times, I didn’t know what was going on because I was so young, but I was still affected by it. Fear is a terrible emotion, and it caused me to be a nervous kid even when I wasn’t at home.”
Torre also reminisced about his mother, who passed away several years ago.
“My mom was always there for us,” Torre said. “She was always home, and she was our security blanket. Because of my mom, there was a lot of love in our home.”
After our mid-morning conversation, Torre, Petrozzello and I walked to Marine Park, which is located one block from the house. Torre learned to play baseball on the fields there, and his return brought back great memories.
“We were always in this park,” said Torre as he leaned against the medal backstop of one of the many diamonds that are still there. “Baseball was the only thing I ever thought about.”
After our walk in the park, we joined Torre’s sisters at a local deli for lunch. During the meal, Torre discussed one of the turning points in his life, which came shortly after the Yankees hired him in 1995.
“[Torre’s wife] Ali asked me if I would go to a four-day self-help seminar that was being held at the Holiday Inn in Cincinnati,” Torre said. “I just said yes because she was pregnant, and I wasn’t going to say no to her at that time. The point of the program was for people to discuss any issues they needed help with, and frankly, I didn’t even go in there knowing what I was going to talk about.
“I didn’t realize how invasive the conversations were going to be,” Torre continued. “But without even thinking, I wound up talking about the fears I had as a kid because of my dad. I had already been named the manager of the Yankees, and I was sitting there with a group of strangers, crying my eyes out. It was great for me because I finally realized that I wasn’t born with so many insecurities.”
Torre’s life off the field changed for the better after that. Of course, leading the Yankees to four championships made his work life pretty enjoyable, as well.
We ended Torre’s homecoming visit with a stop at the Brooklyn Bridge. As Torre posed for the opening spread photo, which was taken about half way across the New York landmark bridge, Torre peered out toward the borough he grew up in.
“Regardless of where life takes me, this will always be home,” Torre said. “I had some tough times here as a kid, but there’s no place in the world where I feel more comfortable.”
For more on Torre’s inspirational life, check out this story in the June Issue of Yankees Magazine.
–Alfred Santasiere III