COOPERSTOWN – As Hall of Fame Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections Erik Strohl pointed to the spot where Joe Torre’s plaque will hang come late July, the former New York Yankees manager spoke in a low tone.
“It’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about,” Torre said to Strohl, “because this is for the elite.”
Welcome to the elite, Joe.
Torre, 73, took his orientation tour Tuesday at the Cooperstown shrine and for a man who’s been connected with professional baseball since 1960, it had to be a trip down memory lane.
He recalled, during a packed media conference in the Hall of Fame’s plaque gallery following his tour, of hearing the news of Babe Ruth’s death in 1948. Torre was 8 when Ruth died.
During an 18-year playing career, he played with Hank Aaron with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, and he won the National League MVP with the Cardinals in 1971, leading the league in hits (230), batting average (.363), RBIs (137) and total bases (352).
His managerial career included stints with the New York Mets, the Cardinals, the Braves and most notably, the Yankees, where he steered New York to four World Series titles (1996, 1998 to 2000). He capped his managerial career with a three-year stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers that ended in 2010.
The Brooklyn-born Torre earned election into the Hall of Fame as a manager via an Expansion Era Committee vote in December, when all 16 members voted in favor of him.
“Baseball has been my life,” Torre said. “The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is play baseball and I felt blessed when I was a player. When my brother (Frank) was playing in the major leagues, I didn’t think it was possible for two people in the same family to have that distinction. To wind up in Cooperstown is something that’s surreal to me. When I actually got the call, it still stunned me.”