Joe Torre said he got a lot of text messages when news broke on Oct. 29 that 76-year-old Tony La Russa was coming back to manage the Chicago White Sox.
Torre and La Russa went into the Hall of Fame together along with Bobby Cox as a super managerial trio in the Class of 2014. The implication was that all three men were finished with their managerial careers.
"I had been talking to Tony," Torre said in a telephone interview this week. "I started trying to talk him out of it and realized he still had that burning passion inside."
Twenty-five years ago, people were reaching out to Torre — not by text message — to tell him to think twice about taking a managerial job.
It was on Nov. 2, 1995, that Torre was introduced as manager of the Yankees. He signed a two-year, $1.05 million deal.
With the thought that Torre had no idea what he was getting into when he took the job under George Steinbrenner, one newspaper headline dubbed him "Clueless Joe."
No one could have predicted what eventually happened — a 12-year run that included four World Series titles and six American League pennants and punched Torre’s ticket to Cooperstown.
Torre was 55 and thinking his managerial career was over when he agreed to replace Buck Showalter, who was let go in 1995 after leading the Yankees to the postseason for the first time since 1981. Showalter’s Yankees suffered a crushing five-game loss to the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS after leading 2-0, and the impetuous Steinbrenner decided not to bring back the 1994 AL Manager of the Year.
Torre was living in Cincinnati with his pregnant wife after getting fired by the St. Louis Cardinals. He was contemplating retirement.
"I was probably talking about retirement because of the fact that I got fired for the third time," Torre said. "I managed the three teams I played for and I really had no connection anywhere else."
Torre already had managed 1,897 regular-season games for the Mets, Atlanta and St. Louis with a record of 894-1,003. He never went to the World Series as a near-Hall of Fame player and had managed three postseason games with Atlanta in 1982. He lost them all.
A month before he was hired as the Yankees' manager, Torre interviewed for their vacant general manager’s job. He turned it down and went back to Cincinnati.
"About three weeks later, I got a call from [Yankees vice president of media relations] Arthur Richman," Torre said. "Arthur said, ‘Are you interested in being on the list of people being considered to manage?’ I said, ‘Sure.' ''
Richman knew Torre from Torre’s days as a Mets player, then player/manager, then solely manager. According to Torre, the other veteran managers on the list were La Russa, Sparky Anderson and Davey Johnson.
Steinbrenner had hired Bob Watson as general manager. Torre’s former player with Atlanta helped convince Steinbrenner to give Torre a chance, even though The Boss was lukewarm about the idea. No other candidates were interviewed.
"There I was," Torre said. "I was the last man standing in that scenario. I got the opportunity."
Steinbrenner, still smarting from the subsequent tabloid criticism over jettisoning Showalter and hiring Torre after the news broke, didn’t even attend his new manager’s introductory news conference.
"And the rest is . . . ," Torre said before catching himself in a near-cliche. "Well, not ‘the rest is history.’ "
No, he was right the first time. History is exactly what it was.
Torre’s Yankees won the World Series in 1996 and three in a row from 1998-2000, with the final one coming in the Subway Series against the Mets. That made Steinbrenner smile a little, don’t you think?
They also reached the World Series in 2001 and 2003 and went to the postseason every single year of Torre’s reign, which ended after the 2007 season.
"I’m most proud that we won multiple World Series and got to the postseason and competed every year," Torre said. "The core group that I had never stopped to admire what they accomplished. The one in 1996 was probably the most special if you’re going to pick out one because it was my first World Series. It was a team that wasn’t favored to do anything."
But none of it would have happened if Torre had taken the Yankees' GM job or gone back into broadcasting (he was a color commentator for the Angels from 1985 to 1990 and also did national games for NBC and ESPN).
Or if he decided to be a stay-at-home dad to his new daughter. Andrea was born in December 1995. She will turn 25 next month.
"My goodness," Torre said. "Twenty-five."
In 1995, Torre — like La Russa in 2020 — wanted to get back into the dugout. Unlike La Russa, Torre wasn’t already a Hall of Fame manager.
Oh, and about La Russa getting the itch and coming back . . . did that get the juices flowing for the 80-year-old Torre, who last managed the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010 and currently works as a special assistant to baseball commissioner Rob Manfred?
"No," Torre said. "Trust me, I've been getting a lot of texts with Tony's thing. No. I don't. I had a great run with the Yankees, obviously."