Breakfast with Joe Torre
Why would I wake up at the asscrack of dawn, drive to school, walk from the parking lot to Journal Square in the pouring rain and take a train to the city for some ordinary Continental breakfast buffet at the Hard Rock in Times Square today? Joe Torre just happened to be in attendance as part of WFAN 660’s Breakfast with a Champion today. Tickets sold out in about 12 minutes a few weeks ago, and my friend and I snagged 5 tickets in that timeframe. As if I needed a real reason to skip class.
Once inside, I got to a table with a not so great view in the back, and went for some French Toast sticks and scrambled eggs. We had about an hour to do as we pleased at the breakfast buffet before Mike Francesa and Joe Torre would be on stage to tell some stories and reminisce about Torre’s career as a player and a manager.
Francesa talked a lot, because Francesa talks a lot. But he asked all the right questions for Joe to answer, who seemed to be in a good mood, not like we’ve seen him sipping his Bigelow tea with a grimace in the Yankee dugout a few years back, no matter the score. He talked about starting out with the St. Louis Cardinals, and switching from catcher to 1st and 3rd base. Shedding 12 lbs. in 15 days on a water diet in spring training with his brother, Frank and hitting .363 for the batting title and NL MVP honors. Almost being traded to the Yankees, but staying with the Mets to pursue his managerial career.
Then Joe moved onto his Yankee Years. Coming back home to New York as “Clueless Joe” and talking about all the young Yankee legends like Jeter, Rivera, Bernie, and Posada, as well as inheriting a great pitching staff and deep bullpen with the likes of Doc Gooden, David Cone, and Jimmy Key. He even touched on how Mariano Rivera was almost traded because they had Wickman and Wetteland to be the set-up man and closer, respectively. The video of that chat is at the bottom of this post.
Torre talked about his coaching staff and dealing with players and his thoughts of them (with Bernie Williams as “his favorite”) through the late 90’s dynasty. He spoke to great lengths about his relationship with George Steinbrenner, whom he said had a great heart and always wanted to win. The most interesting thing I heard today was how Roger Clemens was in the clubhouse crying and saying “he didn’t mean to do it”after he threw the bat towards Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series.
He then went on to talk about the ugly end of his relationship with the Yankees, and fans got to ask questions. We moved out of our seats and headed toward the staircase that led to the greenroom, hoping to get an autograph. Torre only signed a few, as did Francesa, and they quickly exited the stage. We missed our chance to meet Joe Torre, but there was still redemption. Here’s the best photo I could take with my iPhone, with Torre and Francesa talking to Gov. Patterson:
Outside on the side of the building, we walked to the Hard Rock loading dock, where we saw a Chevy Suburban with tinted windows parked outside. A man got out with an umbrella and headed towards the open garage where we were. Suddenly far inside, a door opened and we saw Torre and his posse exiting. We grabbed our stuff and took the caps off our pens and sharpies, and asked for an autograph. Torre was nice enough to stop for us, as he autographed my new pearl, my friend’s Yankee team bat, a copy of “The Yankee Years” and two photos. Here’s my catch of the day:
I was soaked (with the ball kept dry in one of my gloves, in my coat pocket) from head to toe and did not feel like risking getting sick sitting in wet clothes for another two hours. And that’s why I’m not in class today, Prof. Demillo.
Here’s my video of Torre talking about the inherited ’96 team and a young, skinny Mariano Rivera almost being traded.