Bill Shanks

Time for the Braves to honor Torre

Former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre participates in a ceremony retiring Derek Jeter's number at Yankee Stadium, Sunday, May 14, 2017, in New York.
Former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre participates in a ceremony retiring Derek Jeter's number at Yankee Stadium, Sunday, May 14, 2017, in New York. AP

When baseball fans think of Joe Torre, his years as manager of the New York Yankees come to mind. They won four World Series titles with him in charge, and that run got Torre into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Some Atlanta Braves fans, particularly younger fans, associate Torre as the baseball executive who confirmed the ridiculous call in the Braves 2012 wild card game. Remember the “outfield” fly rule play against the St. Louis Cardinals? Torre said the umpires made the right call, even though it likely has never before been called in the history of the sport.

Sure, that was bad, but Torre was just doing his job. That wasn’t the reason the Braves lost that game, but it just left a bad impression on many. It’s silly, really, but some feel that way.

Torre’s long story actually started in a Braves uniform in 1960. When the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966, Torre came with them. He was the starting catcher for the Braves’ first three years in Atlanta before being traded to the Cardinals before the 1969 season.

That was quite a trade. Torre was sent to St. Louis for future Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, who had a couple of good seasons for the Braves. But Torre went to St. Louis and was the NL MVP in 1971.

Counting his time in Milwaukee, Torre is one of the best hitting catchers in Braves history. He had a .294 batting average, 142 home runs, 1,087 hits and 552 RBI in his nine seasons with the Braves.

Then in 1982, Atlanta owner Ted Turner hired Torre to be the Braves’ manager. Torre’s celebrity reached new heights as the Braves became a national team on TBS. The Braves won the NL West that season, and Torre was a big reason why.

He was a charismatic manager who injected energy into a team that needed that type of manager to get over the hump. Fans loved Torre’s fire, especially when he would go to bat for his players in some memorable arguments with umpires.

Torre also had a huge influence on a young player named Dale Murphy. Torre pushed Murphy to reach that next level as a player, and Murphy won back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983.

Torre managed the Braves for three seasons. When he was fired, the Braves went into a downward spiral, finishing last in four of the next six years before everything changed in 1991. Firing Torre was a huge mistake.

He then managed in St. Louis for parts of six seasons in the early 1990s. Then, of course, Torre’s life changed when he took over the Yankees in 1996. And which team did Torre beat in the World Series to give New York its first championship in 18 years? Atlanta.

Sure, we wish he hadn’t beaten the Braves in 1996, and we wish he had screamed aloud at how bad the “outfield” fly rule play was five years ago, but Torre should still be honored for what he did in a Braves uniform.

Last year, Torre was inducted into the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame. Three years ago, the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association honored Torre as the 13th member of the Milwaukee Braves Honor Roll. It’s time now for the Braves to put Torre in their Hall of Fame.

He was Atlanta’s first catcher, and his career numbers were solid. Plus, even if you might not remember Torre as a player, he was a major personality when the Braves became relevant in the early 1980s as the team’s manager.

Braves baseball didn’t start in 1991, and Torre’s 12 years in a Braves’ uniform (with half of those seasons in Atlanta) shouldn’t be forgotten. Before Torre was with the Yankees, he was with the Braves. The Braves should honor Torre for his contributions as a player and manager.

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