Before Joe Torre managed the New York Yankees to four World Series championships, he was a player – a great player.
Torre was among the elite ballplayers of his day. He spent nine years playing for the Braves franchise, coming up in Milwaukee and moving with the team to Atlanta. He made five All-Star appearances due to his consistency at the plate. Torre often hit around .300 with 20-plus home runs and plenty of RBIs.
In 1969 just before the season, the Braves traded Torre to the St. Louis Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda.
In St. Louis, he had some of the best years of his career. During his six seasons in Cardinals red, Torre made the All-Star team four times and won the 1971 MVP award.
Torre came up as a catcher and spent the much of the early part of his career behind the plate. He also played first base, third base, and the outfield to give his body a break from the daily strain of catching.
In 1971, Torre put away the gear for good and spent the rest of his career at first and third base. He played the entire 1971 season at the hot corner. The switch coincided with his most impressive season.
Torre won the batting title with a .363 average. He also hit 24 home runs and led the league in hits with 230 and RBIs with 137. He was the best player in baseball that year.
His production dropped off after the MVP campaign, but he did make two more All-Star appearances in St. Louis.
He was traded to the New York Mets after the 1974 season and finished his career there in 1977. He never got a taste of the postseason during his playing career.
The move to New York opened up a new opportunity for Torre. He was the Mets player-manager during the 1977 season. The transition from the diamond to the bench was a quick one, but it was also rocky.
The Mets went 49-68 under his leadership that first year. He then retired from playing and stayed as the team’s manager until 1981. Torre never had a winning season with the Mets.
His luck changed with the Braves. The team won the division in his first year at the helm and second in year two. His third and final season in Atlanta was a losing one.
He would have to wait six years for another chance. It came in St. Louis, another one of his former teams. Torre replaced Whitey Herzog who had a great run for a decade with the Redbirds. Herzog won the 1982 World Series and two National League pennants. He was a beloved figure in St. Louis.
Torre inherited a team in transition and had some big shoes to fill. In his first full year, he led a down team to a surprising second place finish. He had winning seasons in 1992 and 1993, but never reached the playoffs. After some rough times in 1994 and 1995, Torre was let go.
He quickly found another job with the New York Yankees. The Brooklyn native returned home and felt right at home with his young team. Torre won the World Series in his first season with the Yankees. And the dynasty began. The Yankees won four titles in five years under Torre’s direction.
He was the picture of stoicism in the dugout, quietly leading one of the greatest teams of all-time. The team went to the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons. They went to the World Series six times and won four.
He is likely finished with his managerial career now. Torre announced he will step down as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 2010 season after three seasons in Hollywood.
Torre is a surefire Hall of Famer as a manager with his record and rings, but he is also one of the greatest players left out of the Hall. He never received more than 22.2 percent of the vote in 1997.
In 18 major league seasons, Torre batted .297 and amassed 2,342 hits, 252 home runs, and 1,185 RBIs.
(Sources: Baseball-Reference, Sports Illustrated)