Before he won four World Series championships in the Bronx, Joe Torre was just a kid from Brooklyn who loved baseball.
The nine-time All-Star and Hall of Fame manager — who grew up in Marine Park and started his career with the Brooklyn Cadets — returned to Brooklyn last week, managing a team in the annual celebrity softball game at MCU Park on Aug. 9.
The game was a hit amongst fans — who came out early to check out the matchup before the Cyclones took the field — but it was also incredibly personal for Torre, who was raising money for his Safe At Home Foundation. As a child, Torre constantly saw his father abuse his mother and began the foundation in 2005 to help other families avoid what he went through.
“I never shared it with anybody until I realized I wasn’t necessarily born with these feelings that I had of insecurity and nervousness, feeling that things that were going on were my fault,” Torre told the Brooklyn crowd.
The Cyclones presented Torre with a check after the softball game, which also featured players from the New York police and fire departments. Although it took years for Torre to discuss his experiences as a child, the manager knows he’s made a difference.
It didn’t take long for Torre’s competitive streak to show itself during the game either — a characteristic that has been apparent since his days growing up in Brooklyn.
Despite being a native Brooklynite, Torre was actually a Giants fan as a child. When Bobby Thomson hit a three-run homer off Ralph Branca of the Dodgers to win the pennant for the Giants, Torre was ecstatic.
“My sister worked for the telephone company and I was on the phone with her and Bobby Thomson hit the home run, and I was giving her a play-by-play and I screamed and we got cut off,” he said of the moment.
Although he took his managerial duties seriously throughout the softball game, Torre also took a few moments to speak with his celebrity players, including Cyclones coach Edgardo Alonzo. Of course, Torre and Alonzo have a long history, but the former Yankees manager didn’t gloat about his Yankees 2000 World Series victory over Alonzo’s Mets.
“I thought that they may have been a better team than we were that year,” Torre said. “We got some breaks. That first game was an extra inning game, the play that Timo [Perez] didn’t run.”
Torre added that, “in a short series, you get lucky.”
Torre was fine handling the celebrities after dealing with all the egos of Major League players.
“Well you want everybody to have an ego, it’s just a matter of as long as it doesn’t get in the way.”
Torre wasn’t the only one who enjoyed himself during the annual softball game — Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa had one of the best stretches of the season last week. In addition to watching his squad post a five-game win streak, Gamboa reunited with Jesse Orosco when the former Met threw out the first pitch before the game on Aug. 11. Gamboa was the scout who discovered Orosco in the late-70s. Gamboa — then a national crosschecker — wrote a positive report on Orosco after watching him pitch and meeting his family, which led to the Twins signing him.
Gamboa also relished the opportunity to talk shop with Torre, taking a few moments to tell the Hall of Famer how he felt.
“I was glad I got to tell him that today as a baseball person and as a fan,” Gamboa said.