Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox talk at Baseball Hall of Fame Press Conference
MODERATOR BRAD HORN: Ladies and gentlemen, at this time we’ll take questions of the media from here in the audience. Please wait until you’re addressed.
Dec 9, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Joe Torre speaks after being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame during the MLB Winter Meetings at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. Torre was voted in unanimously with former managers Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox. Image Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
Q. Gentlemen, congratulations. As you look back on your careers, each of you, not counting the wins and the pennants and the World Series, is there one ingredient that you think probably helped you get where you are?
BOBBY COX: I don’t know if there’s only one, Hal, but I remember playing for Ralph Houk in New York in the ’60s, and we’ve all played minor league ball, winter ball, Major League baseball, and you take a little bit from everybody that you ever played with. And I liked Ralph Houk’s style quite a bit. I learned a lot from him and kind of changed my thinking around about the game of baseball.
TONY LA RUSSA: I thought the most important thing was keep it simple, and that is it’s a competition. And the reason that you put a team together is to play against another team, you keep score. And the way that works is the organization. If I think there was one thing that I was taught growing up in Kansas City years ago, it’s about the whole organization, and I was I said it many times, perfect fortune, Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s, St. Louis Cardinals, people working in the organization, you want to win, you’ve got to have it together, everybody coordinated and just have it go your way.
JOE TORRE: You start in March, and everybody has the same aspirations. And I go back to my teenage years, my brother, Frank, who is sitting over there, it was in the World Series against the Yankees in ’57, ’58, and that was the one thing that I always felt was something I wanted to accomplish. Because after I was fired by from my second or third job, I’m not sure which one, you lose a little heart. And my wife said, How do you want to be remembered? I said, Somebody who really never reached, you know, what he was looking for. She said, What, are you dead? And so that was pretty inspirational there.
But as Tony and Bobby talked about, once you get into the competition, it never gets old. It never gets old. After we won in ’96 with the Yankees, because that is really what I wanted, I realized it wasn’t enough. And you just keep driving. You never really look back, I guess, until now what you did because once you start looking back you stop doing what you’re trying to do.
So it’s just a whole combination. To me, once you close your mind to thinking, you need to learn anything else, I think that’s when it’s time to move on. But I just felt that I needed to always get better to stay the same.
Q. Congratulations. Can I ask all three of you if you remember who the first person was inside the baseball, that actually brought up the possibility of becoming a manager.
BOBBY COX: That’s a good question. Andy MacPhail is sitting here somewhere, he’s on the Committee. It happened in Syracuse, I didn’t make the Yankee club in 1970 and I was the last one cut by Ralph Houk and Andy MacPhail, Sr. And they called me in and they were both in there and they said, Bobby, you’re not going to make the club. And I was prepared to go home and get back in school and become probably a football coach in high school. That was my endeavor at the time. And they said, We’ll give you a $2,000 raise to go to Syracuse as a backup in case somebody gets hurt. And $2,000 in those days was a ton of money.
Anyway, at the conclusion of that season, the very last series we had, my manager Frank Verdi called me in and said Mr.MacPhail is flying in tomorrow and wants to have lunch with you. I sat down with him and he said, Bobby, I think your career is about over. I know he wasn’t coming down to call me up in September, that’s for sure. He said, There’s a job opening in Fort Lauderdale, and that he and Ralph Houk thought I would make a good minor league instructor and manager, and the position is open and they would like me to take it and I did take it. If it wasn’t for Mr.MacPhail flying down there and having lunch I never would have been sitting here today.
TONY LA RUSSA: That’s a painful question. Because when I was 17 years old when I was around 20, 21, played for a couple managers, and they said start thinking about managing (laughter). One of them even said, we talked about prospects, and the list of suspects. I remember I played winter ball in Escondido for Tommy Lasorda. He said the only reason you’re here is because you speak some Spanish. You ought to think about going I played 16 years, and it was always mediocre at best.
And right there towards the end I had the great opportunity to end my career as a player coach in St. Louis with the great Kissell. And he said, are you still playing? You’ve got to get out of here. You’ve got to start coaching for real. All the guys that knew I was lousy, I should have started earlier.
JOE TORRE: When I was traded from the Braves to the Cardinals, I think that was the start of my maturity, basically. I was a little irresponsible before that. And just being with the Cardinals and of course going through their hallways and seeing them in many World Series they were part of and having just come off two straight World Series in ’67 and ’68, and then playing for Red Schoendienst, just sitting there and having been a fan of Red Schoendienst, because he was part of that ball club I was talking about earlier, the Braves in ’57, and just started paying attention, started paying attention.
Of course, Bob Gibson said every once in a while, go tell Red this, go tell Red that, and I did every once in a while, and it didn’t turn out very well, so I knew Gibson couldn’t manage. (Laughter.)
And then I got traded to the Mets and of course always feeling that getting an opportunity to manage usually you had to go through the minor leagues, but one day Joe McDonald, who was the general manager, came in one day and asked if I’d be interested in managing the ball club during the season, we were in an exhibition game in Tidewater and I really have to thank Donald Grant for allowing me to manage the New York Mets at the age of 36. And that has certainly meant the world to me and made a difference in the rest of my professional life.