Joe Torre’s Hall of Fame Story
August 9, 2014 – On the final weekend of July, I traveled to Cooperstown, New York, to chronicle Joe Torre’s Hall of Fame induction for the cover story of the August Issue of Yankees Magazine.
During my three-day stay in baseball’s holy cathedral, I had exclusive access to the former Yankees skipper. I interviewed him at the Otesaga Resort Hotel, where he and more than 50 other Hall of Famers stayed. I also had the unique opportunity to attend two private parties, one of which was held in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s plaque gallery and the other which was held at Brewery Ommegang.
The small gathering at the local beer factory and restaurant was co-hosted by the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball. Near the end of the night, baseball commissioner Bud Selig grabbed a microphone and saluted Torre.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Joe for 54 years,” Selig said in a speech that you will only find in Yankees Magazine. “This is a wonderful day for the New York Yankees, for Joe and for his entire family. Joe has clearly distinguished himself in his career on the playing field and as a manager, winning four world championships. But the thing that I’m proudest of is that he has represented this sport in a really, really remarkable way. Tomorrow, he will get inducted into the Hall of Fame on merit and clearly because of who he was and what he did on and off the field. On behalf of Major League Baseball, congratulations on the most richly deserved honor.”
As the crowd of about 50 people applauded, Selig handed the microphone to Yankees managing general partner/co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner.
“On behalf of the entire organization and my entire family, I want to congratulate you on this very well-deserved honor,” Steinbrenner said. “During your years with us, you managed some very special players and some very special teams. Your leadership, your poise, your character and your coolness under pressure made those teams world champions many times over. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for everything you did for the organization.”
At the conclusion of Steinbrenner’s speech, Torre embraced him and shared his own thoughts.
“It’s an honor just to be associated with your family, and especially your father,” Torre said. “I had a great relationship with George, and I’m forever grateful to him. I was never a Yankees fan until the first time I put the pinstripes on, but once you do that, it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“But my coolness under pressure is going to be tested tomorrow,” Torre continued. “I never afforded myself the luxury of thinking about the Hall of Fame. I knew what the Hall of Fame was, and I respected the heck out of the guys who were in the Hall of Fame. I’ve dreamt about it on occasions, but I always thought it was unreachable.”
Before he concluded, Torre spoke about the recent days in Cooperstown.
“One thing I realized over the last few days is that there’s an awful lot of Hall of Famers at the Hall of Fame,” Torre said. “Every one of them checks their ego at the door, and that’s really cool. The outpouring of love that I’ve felt this week is something I’ll never forget.”
In front of about 48,000 fans, Torre joined baseball’s greatest fraternity the next day, as he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In my story, I detail just about every step Torre took on induction weekend, as well as the key points of his speech. This special story also includes several anecdotes from Torre’s time with the Yankees, which he shared with me during a visit to Cooperstown in March (see photo below from that interview in the Hall of Fame’s plaque gallery).
–Alfred Santasiere III