Joe Girardi reflects on friend, mentor, and contemporary Joe Torre
First and foremost, the former spent four seasons playing for the latter, winning three World Championships as one of the Yankees' backstops from 1996-99. But, as you likely know, Girardi also watched Torre from a more objective perch as a YES Network broadcaster in 2004, interacted with him up close as Yankees bench coach in 2005 and then from afar as the Marlins' manager in 2006, and once again watched from above in his second stint with YES in 2007 before succeeding him in 2008.
And through it all, Girardi never forgot what Torre taught him about how to be a manager, even though he didn't understand all of it until he was actually the Yankees' skipper himself.
"Joe's demeanor was always the same during good times and bad; that's my personality normally, but I saw the importance of it from Joe, that your mood doesn't change as long as the effort is there," Girardi said prior to Torre's number retirement ceremony Saturday. "I sat in his office as much as I could when I was the bench coach, trying to get a feel for what it was like to be the manager, but I don't think you really understand until you sit in his chair."
That doesn't mean, of course, that there weren't times where the seemingly-docile skipper would show a much less sweet side of himself.
"I saw him get upset here; let's face it, he's a New York Italian, you're gonna get upset and show it - that's what we do as Italians," Girardi laughed. "There was a lot of fire in Joe, but he probably did it a different way when he was here. There were times he'd get upset with us in the clubhouse, and we knew it; it was probably calmer than other people's rant and raves, but it was heightened from what we were used to seeing, so he got his message across."
Still, though, outwardly, the now Hall of Famer was like a duck - calm on the surface, but likely with a million gears churning underneath the surface.
"He always talked about how as he grew older and managed more, he learned to keep his emotions more in check," Girardi said. "And that's something I understand more now too as I get older and manage more."
Win, lose, or draw, however, whether in times of dire straits or extreme prosperity, Girardi - and every Yankee who played from 1996-2007, really - always believed the best was yet to come.
"I've often talked about Joe's ability to make people believe everything would be okay no matter what we were going through - and we went through a lot the years he was here, both on and off the field - and that's the thing that I've tried to take the most from Joe," Girardi said. "Even when he told us about his cancer, he said it was going to be okay and that he'd be back."
Everything turned out okay for Torre, as he took his place Saturday alongside 17 other Yankees and his No. 6 joined 16 others on the wall in Monument Park.
It's an honor Girardi said was "well-deserved" for the true rock of the latest Yankees' dynasty.
"He had a great ability to make people believe everything was going to be all right if we stuck together, and he was good at keeping the noise out...He meant a ton to the organization."