Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Joe Torre

I'd like to thank Joe Posnanski for helping me to recall this memory.

Back when I interned for the Orioles, one of my daily responsibilities was to head down to the clubhouse after the game, record the manager's interview with the press, and then head back up to the pressbox to type the quotes so that the beat writers could include the comments in their stories. My intern desk-mate* and I would alternate between the home and visiting clubhouses, thus giving us both a chance to listen to each visiting manager. I really enjoyed seeing the quirky personalities of each manager; Ron Gardenhire conducted his interviews standing up while the Minnesota press sat, Dusty Baker would never take off his sweatbands until the interview was over, Lou Piniella was half-naked and already drinking beer, Buck Showalter was thoughtful and articulate, and Grady Little was barely understandable thanks to his hillbilly accent. Joe Torre, though, was the consummate professional.

* Yes, the club made us share a desk and a computer. Not some modern, fast computer, but and outdated machine that surfed the Web at the speed of molasses. It would literally take us hours to complete tasks that should have taken us no more than 30 minutes. In hindsight, it's clear that Peter Angelos hadn't really invested in the infrastructure necessary to run a first rate front office. I can only hope that things have changed.

As everyone knows, the Yankees have a huge media contingent, so big that we had to prepare name cards for the press box so that all the Baltimore regulars wouldn't lose their seats. The media for most clubs has a routine that it follows; this person asks the first question and maybe a follow-up, and then that person follows, and the Yankees were no different. After the game, the herd crowded into Torre's office where it dutifully waited for the YES Network to ask the first question. Torre, still fully clad and not yet eating or drinking, answered the three or four standard post-game questions, and then the YES Network hurriedly rushed out to the clubhouse to talk with the players (probably to Jeter or some other sissy) while most writers stayed behind to get one or two more quotes from Torre.

Only, whoever was supposed to ask the next question never spoke up. I was standing right next to Torre, and after a few seconds of silence I found myself speaking up. Torre had never seen me before, and I'm sure he suspected that he would never see me again (my shirt and tie were a dead giveaway that I was not a member of the media). Still, he looked me in the eye as he answered my question, and even gave it a few sentences more than it probably deserved. He was a master of the media, and that's a large part of what him so successful in New York.

In another of those, "Wow, am I actually doing this?" moments from the summer, I was riding the elevator from the press box to the service level a few hours before game time when the doors opened at the main stadium entrance. In walked a short, slight man. It was Mariano Rivera. While I should have been thinking, "I'm riding an elevator with the greatest closer of all-time!" I was instead struck by how short and skinny he was. I also got to tell Derek Jeter "Out of my way!" (ok, "Excuse me") when he and Jorge Posada were playing catch in front of the home plate gate. Fun times.

No comments: