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Torre reflects on time in L.A., career after victory

Torre reflects on time in L.A., career after victory

LOS ANGELES -- This upcoming Spring Training, the one Joe Torre all but swears he won't attend -- not as a manager, anyway -- will mark 50 years since his first.

Retirement has been a scarcely used word, but Sunday was ostensibly Torre's last day as a Major League manager. He and the Dodgers went out on top, 3-1, over the D-backs at Dodger Stadium. It was Torre's 2,326th career win, the fifth-most all-time.

Torre spoke to the crowd of 38,007 after the game. He gave thanks for his 259-227 record in three seasons here, and the fans gave theirs.

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"When I left New York after the '07 season, there were three very stressful years for me," who turned 70 this July. "I just wasn't sure if managing was going to be any fun any more. But thanks to Frank McCourt, Ned Colletti, and most of all, these two guys -- my daughter Andrea and my wife Ali -- who basically talked me into it. All you fans, whether here at the ballpark or walking around in the L.A. area, you have made us feel so welcome, and I can't tell you how appreciative I am for that."

The Dodgers even left Torre with a gift, and they knew there was still something he, in fact, did not have.

Torre was 20 years old in 1961. He was a catcher in the Atlanta Braves organization, who at the time trained in Bradenton, Fla. It was his first Spring Training, and the Yankees -- those 1961 home run record-chasing, world champion Yankees -- were in town for an exhibition.

Torre caught that day, and thought it was neat when Mickey Mantle stepped into the box. He thought it was neater when Mantle's back was to him as a home run flew out of the park, hit off Whitey Ford.

"Hitting a ball to right-center field, with a little help from the wind, going over the fence and having my visual be Mickey Mantle looking up at as it it goes over the fence -- that's a mental picture I had," Torre said. "I said it'd be nice if somebody had a shot of that."

Renowned sports artist Opie Otterstad made it happen: a portrait of Torre with the image of Mantle chasing down that home run in the top right corner.

"That's a nice memory for me," Torre said. "Even the fact that 10 years later I'm sitting at a banquet with Mickey Mantle and he reminded me of that day. I think the reason being, my brother Frank had played [for the Braves against the Yankees in the 1957 and 1958 World Series] ... so the guy that hit the home run was Frank Torre's kid brother."

In that nearly 50 years since he was Frank Torre's brother, Joe Torre has become a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame and one of the greatest managers ever. He leaves with more postseason victories than any other manager, 84, and with a 2326-1997 regular-season record (.537) in 29 seasons.

In three seasons in Los Angeles, he brought home two National League West titles and until this season, Torre had reached the playoffs 14 consecutive times.

"We lost our way," Torre said of the Dodgers' 80-82 finish in fourth place. "I told my players in there, everybody in that room deep down inside wanted the same things I did, and it sort of got lost."

Torre was a player's manager and, at least in his later years, an ever-calming presence. That came from Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, who managed Torre in the middle of his 18-year career as player, with the Cardinals from 1969-1974.

"When they made me captain of that ballclub, that really got my attention," said Torre, who felt he hadn't valued himself fully as a leader until then. "During those years, Red Schoendienst, he certainly was a model for me ... he was somebody who gave the players a lot of leeeway, believing they were there for one reason, to win. That's pretty much where I got a lot of my ideas from."

Torre was a player-manager in the first season he managed, in 1977 with the Mets. He moved on to Atlanta in 1982, the Cardinals in 1990 and the Yankees in 1996. He didn't win a World Series -- something that had always been under his skin -- until that first season in New York. He won three more with the Yankees from 1998-2000.

On Sunday, with plenty of family in town and at the stadium, and a phone call to Sandy Koufax in the morning, Torre was content. Before the game, there was a closed clubhouse champagne toast with the players.

"I don't know if Joe will manage again or not," said catcher Brad Ausmus, who played his last game on Sunday after an 18-year career. "But if it was his last time, it was nice to get a win for him."

Going forward, it's possible Torre remains with the Dodgers in an advisory role. For the entirety of the season through the last day, he did leave open the possibility of managing again, even if it's improbable.

"I hope so," Torre said when asked if he still had something to offer the game. "I'd like to help, and I really don't know what area at this point in time. But we all sit there on the bench, we'd like to see this changed or that changed. You're interested, and I still have a passion for the game and I certainly rekindled my spirit these three years."

Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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