In April 2001, the New York Yankees were at the peak of their reign after winning four World Series titles in five years. Naturally, media had taken interest in the club’s manager, Joe Torre, who had turned a collection of journeyman, young players, and castoffs (it’s easy to forget that the Yankees’ roster was not loaded with superstars in the mid-1990s) into one of the great dynasties in the history of baseball. Only instead of Sports Illustrated or The Sporting News, the publication that came calling for Torre was the business magazine Fortune, which sort of sums up everything about Torre as manager for the Yankees. The subheadline for the feature called him “the model for today’s corporate managers.”

Joe Torre  - Adsum
A young Joe Torre when he played for the Milwaukee Braves.

Torre wasn’t a self-styled tactician like the Cardinals’ Tony La Russa or a charismatic emotional leader like Ozzie Guillen of the White Sox, but rather a quiet and steady middle manager of a successful global corporation.

Before the Yankees hired Torre prior to the 1996 season, the club had only one playoff appearance since 1981 and had seen 14 managerial changes over that same time. The Yankees were an expensive, disorganized mess. But within one season, he quietly shaped what remained of that mess into a businesslike machine of winning, beating the Atlanta Braves in six games in the 1996 World Series, the Yankees’ 23rd championship.

As the Yankees racked up more titles over the ensuing years, the club also came to represent what was happening in the city at the time as Giuliani worked to reshape the crime-ridden image of the 1980s into one of middle class corporate prosperity. At the center of that connection between the Yankees and that middle class vision for the city was Torre, the quiet and hard working son of a cop from Marine Park, Brooklyn.

Joe Torre  - Adsum
How most New Yorkers will remember Joe.

If there is an enduring image of Torre, it is of him in the Yankees dugout on an October night in the Bronx, sitting silently in the dugout with a stern look, navy satin jacket with white script “Yankees” snapped all the way up, large stiff-crowned New Era 59/50 sitting just slightly higher than normal on his head — a look often replicated around Yankee Stadium by the upper middle class Upper East Side set. While most baseball managers look rather silly wearing the on-field uniform, Torre always made his uniform feel like a corporate suit.

To see Torre in the dugout, you could just as easily imagine him wearing his pinstripes while sitting at the counter of an uptown diner, reading the sports section of the Daily News, then quietly setting off on the 4 train with the rest of the commuters to lead one of the best teams in the history of baseball to yet another championship.

Words by: Joseph Swide