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Joe Torre, Made the Right Moves, Said the Right Things


October of 1996 now feels like June of 1994, when the Rangers took the town and would not let it go. It has not been 44 years since the Yankees last won a World Series. It just feels that long in New York sometimes just because of all the history here, not to mention all the Steinbrenner.

Two years ago, a hockey coach named Mike Keenan walked into one of the big New York jobs and delivered a Stanley Cup in his first shot. Now Joe Torre tries to do the same thing, in the biggest New York job.

The difference is that Torre is of this place, something we all seem to have discovered in the last couple of weeks. Another difference is this: one Torre makes the effort with more charm than any New York coach or manager since Casey Stengel. And much better syntax.

And maybe there has not been a New York manager to make the whole place root this way since Gil Hodges of Brooklyn, N.Y. won the World Series with the Mets in 1969.

Others have won, and won big. Weeb Ewbank pulled off the most famous pro football upset with the Jets back in '69, but as tremendous a coach as Ewbank was, those were Joe Namath's Jets. Bill Parcells, Jersey guy, was a terrific story with the Giants when they won two Super Bowls. As popular as Parcells was, though, he never let his guard down, never let you see how much it all mattered to him. He never let you see him cry the way Torre did last week in Baltimore.

Billy Martin was always a huge crowd favorite, win or lose, all the way to the day he died. Martin had all this Yankee history. Joe Torre has stuffed what feels like a lifetime of Yankee history into the last 11 months. And there is no controversy with him, no edge, no meanness.

Davey Johnson won with the Mets in '86, but he was just part of the crowd there; looking back, people remember Keith Hernandez as the leader of that team more than they do Johnson. Al Arbour was all class with the Islanders and barely spoke.

Now you have Torre, who has made all the right moves, said all the right things, starting from the day he took the job. Before he took it, I thought he was the wrong choice for the Yankees, that there had been enough of a shot for him across 2000 games of managing to manage a real winner. Wrong. He was the perfect choice, and has shown it. He has shown it every day and night of the season, even as he has lost one brother, knows another one needs a new heart to make it through another season. Even as he has worked the biggest New York job, worked for old Steinbrenner.

Nearly 30 years after Gil Hodges came out of Brooklyn to win it all, Joe Torre comes out of the same borough and tries to do the same. Cheered by all the boroughs.

Frank Torre, one of the best people to ever be around the game of baseball, got more play this week than Madonna's baby.

I think I've finally caught up with Sen. Dole's line of thinking here: When drug use goes up, it's Clinton's fault.

When crime goes down, Mayor Giuliani did it.

Mayor Giuliani did it ...

Little public speaking humor there.

O.J. Simpson says Billy Graham is the most beloved guy in America and then he, O.J., is second.

With a dropoff like that between No. 1 and No. 2, who do you suppose is No. 3, the Unabomber?

First it was Dan Reeves' fault that the Giants can't pass the ball.

Now I am hearing that it is the offensive line's fault.

But when does it get to be Dave Brown's fault, even with his most ardent admirers?

There was a moment in the debate the other night when Dole interrupted Clinton a couple of times and the whole thing sounded exactly like one of those Beavis and Bubba and Bob skits on Imus.

On Imus ...

Sorry, I seem to have developed this tic every time I get in front of a big crowd ...

Super Bowls are more exciting than these debates have been.

The Jets aren't just the worst team in Giants Stadium anymore.

They're the worst team anywhere.

So I guess you could call that progress, right?

Why are they playing Frank Reich instead of Glenn Foley in the middle of an 0-16 season?

Chris Chambliss should not have to wait any longer to be a manager in the big league.

He is not just qualified after the baseball career he has had, he is overqualified.

And he sure has paid his dues.

I keep waiting for Dr. Budig to announce that he's suspending Roberto Alomar from the first four games of theWorld Series.

It is always interesting to me to see the killer Dream Team lawyers from the Players Association moving around ballparks and press boxes as if they have the run of the place.

Braves second baseman Mark Lemke is the closest thing I have in baseball to my own homey from the 'hood.

I'm from Oneida, N.Y.; he's from Whitesboro.

When we said we were going to the city in Oneida, we meant Whitesboro.

Steinbrenner was saying in the papers the other day that he looks for that New York toughness in ballplayers, which I guess explains his infatuation with Kenny Rogers.

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