|Joe Torre walks past Dodger legend Don Newcombe at his press conference announcing him as the new Dodger manager.|
LOS ANGELES – (MLB.com) Making a fresh start on the opposite coast with a new team in a familiar old league, Joe Torre decided to come clean.
It was such a deep, dark secret Torre unveiled on Monday, Tommy Lasorda had no clue. And Lasorda, a guy with great sources, has been friendly with Torre and his family for years.
“Man, what a surprise,” Lasorda said, having discovered that the Dodgers’ esteemed new manager grew up in Brooklyn as—horror of horrors—a New York Giants fan.
“I thought living in Brooklyn, everybody was a Dodger fan,” Lasorda said. I just found that out about Joe today. We’ll get that out of him, just like we did with Ned [Colletti].”
Colletti, employed by the San Francisco Giants when he was hired as the Dodgers’ general manager after the 2005 season, quickly learned from Lasorda that all Giants ties —to say nothing of rings and memorabilia—were not welcome in Dodgertown.
Now here comes Torre, with his four World Series championship rings as manager of the New York Yankees, offering his revelation of a youthful infatuation with the hated Giants.
“I might as well get this out real quick,” Torre said from a podium planted in center field at Dodger Stadium, following introductions by club owner Frank McCourt and baseball’s enduring bard, play-by-play voice Vin Scully.
“I grew up [in Brooklyn] with four brothers and sisters. We had the Giants, Dodgers and Yankees; we were pretty spoiled. I have managed the Yankees, and now I get to manage the Dodgers—and I was a Giants fan.
“I want to apologize for that now.”
None will be necessary, as long as Torre finds ways to beat the Giants fairly consistently, along with the Rockies, Padres and Diamondbacks in a National League West that might be the most competitive of the Majors’ six divisions.
Torre was 17, a high school student attending St. Francis Prep School in Brooklyn, when the Dodgers departed for Los Angeles after the 1957 season, taking his Giants to the West Coast with them.
One of Joe’s brothers, Frank Torre, had launched his Major League career in 1956 as a first baseman for the Milwaukee Braves.
It was in 1957, the Braves were playing the Yankees in the World Series, that the Torres’ mother made her first airplane trip, flying to Milwaukee. Appearing on “The Today Show,” she was asked, as Joe recalled, to name her favorite player.
“Gil Hodges,” came the honest reply.
Brother Frank got the last laugh. He homered twice and batted .300 in that 1957 Series that went to the Braves in seven games.
Even with a mother who adored the Dodgers’ first baseman and a prominent Italian-American, Roy Campanella, playing his catching position in Brooklyn, Joe somehow turned away from the Dodgers to cheer for the Giants.
“He probably booed me at Ebbets Field,” said a bemused Don Newcombe, the Brooklyn ace of that time, whose presence at the press conference was acknowledged by Torre.