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T.J. SIMERS

Joe Torre managing quite well on book tour

He is greeted by big crowds everywhere he goes while promoting 'The Yankee Years' in New York.

February 04, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM NEW YORK — Spent the entire day with Joe Torre, which might explain near the end why he says, "I haven't decided yet if I will manage the Dodgers after this season."

It's a day that will take us from New York through the Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey, Bob Costas and on to the Yogi Berra Museum.

"I go through the airport and show the security people my driver's license," Yogi says, "and it says, 'Lawrence P. Berra,' and they'll tell me I look just like that other guy. I do too."

It's a day of interviews for Torre, the same questions, three book signings and ending 12 hours after it has started with Torre fielding the toughest query of the day from his 13-year-old daughter, who is back home in L.A. doing her civics homework.

"Tell me, Dad, what does the Democratic Party stand for?" she says, and here's hoping her grade isn't based on Dad's response.

It's a long day, right from the start cold, snow falling in the big city and yet there's a line of people stretching around Fifth Avenue and down 47th Street outside a Barnes & Noble.

I have no idea how they knew I'd be here.

It's a three-hour wait for the overflow crowd with no guarantee they will get inside, everyone apparently interested in getting Torre's autograph in his new book, "The Yankee Years."

Maybe they will even read it, which will leave them wondering why the media has it all wrong again.

But first it's take-a-knee time, Torre gone but apparently not forgotten here. "Joe, we miss you." "My son had cancer, Joe, and you were such an inspiration." "Remember the time when we met six years ago at that restaurant?"

And he says he does, and remarkably, he really does.

Maybe there's someone more cordial or accommodating out there, which only puts them in the same class as Torre.

Just like that, 1,000 books are sold, so many Yankees fans still living and dying with glory days gone by, the media mob here, too, but more interested in knowing why Torre chose to jeopardize his Yankee legacy by violating the sanctity of a clubhouse.

Or so the New York Post has been reporting, everyone taking their lead from a newspaper that once ran the headline across the entire front page: "Headless Body in Topless Bar."

Torre tells a group of newspaper writers, "I did not violate the clubhouse code," then tells a wall of cameras, "I did not violate the clubhouse code," and then repeats it, "I was careful not to do so" in interview after interview.

Then why did he refer to A-Rod as A-Fraud? Why the reference to the movie "Single White Female" in describing A-Rod's obsession with Derek Jeter?

Or my favorite, and everyone really does have a point here, why talk about Kevin Brown as if he's human?

"Read the book," he says, which will require spending $26.95. "If you read the book, the flavor is different than when you just listen to the excerpts that are out there."

Frank McCourt says he has not read the book, but he's talking about it to reporters back in L.A. He says some nice things about Torre, which is good, because he's still his manager, but then leaves Torre shaking his head.

"It's probably going to be a little reminder to [Torre] moving forward that the media can take this stuff and blow it up to where it suddenly does become a big deal," McCourt says, and when Torre hears it, he laughs.

"Like I have to be reminded of that after spending 12 years in New York," he says, everywhere he goes Tuesday, reporters and cameras following.

McCourt, while noting Torre's contract with the team prohibits him from doing another book without the Dodgers' permission, goes on to say something "positive" might come from this book.

"It's just a nice reminder when dealing with our club and our clubhouse that what stays in that clubhouse stays in that clubhouse."

Torre has worked for George Steinbrenner and now McCourt. It takes a lot to rattle him.

"You should probably read the book to comment on something like that," he says. "I'm proud of this book. What I wrote, I said many times to reporters over the years."

More than that, he never said much of what the New York Post and others have been reporting.

It was Torre's co-author, Tom Verducci, who wrote many of the passages that are now getting thrown back in Torre's face.

Verducci, a respected sportswriter, and yes those two words can be used together, documented the changing game of baseball during Torre's 12-year run in New York. It's what gives the book life and depth, the perfect companion to Torre's reminisces.

Verducci interviewed a variety of baseball people, learning that teammates referred to A-Rod as A-Fraud early in his run with the Yankees. It was Verducci's reference to "Single White Female," but inexplicably Torre's words describing Brown as human.

Torre's name is in the same size of type on the cover of the book as Verducci's, the pair putting together a "history book," as Torre calls it, and nothing much in the way of controversy unless you get your news only from Post headlines.

"Everybody wants me to say 'sorry' for something," a bewildered Torre says after another interview. "It's weird."

That brings the conversation around to Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers a sorry lot without him.

"As it is," he's told, "you better be in shape this season for the number of trips you're going to have to make to the mound, given this team's pitching staff."

Torre has been on the phone three times with Ramirez, getting involved, he admits, which he normally does not do. He wants Ramirez, and just as badly, an upgrade in pitching.

But for the moment he settles for a hug from Yogi, tomorrow another day with a visit with Regis & Kelly, and then later Letterman. Everyone still interested in "The Yankee Years," and fan after fan here at each book signing wishing him luck in L.A.

Obviously they know their baseball here.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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