Joe Torre is going into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday primarily for the work he did in 12 years as manager of the New York Yankees, where he won 1,173 regular season games and four World Series titles in 12 seasons.
But Torre’s 46 years as a player and later a manager began in Milwaukee, where the Brooklyn native rose rapidly through the Milwaukee Braves’ farm system and became an All-Star.
The Braves signed Torre as an amateur free agent on Aug. 24, 1959, in the era before the creation of the amateur draft.
He began his career as a catcher at Class C Eau Claire in 1960, where he hit 16 home runs and batted .344 for the Braves’ Northern League farm club.
He did well enough to earn a promotion to the big leagues in September, just a little more than a year after signing his first contract.
He made his major league debut at Milwaukee County Stadium on Sept. 25, 1960, called on to bat for future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning, with the Braves trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0. Torre grounded the first pitch he saw from left-hander Harvey Haddix up the middle for a single and was quickly pulled from the game in favor of pinch-runner Lee Maye.
He struck out in his only other at-bat at Pittsburgh on Oct. 1 against Pirates right-hander Bob Friend.
Torre began the 1961 season at Triple-A Louisville, where he hit .342/.376/.532 in 27 games for the Colonels, driving in 24 runs and earning a promotion to the bigs on May 21.
He wouldn’t ever go back down to the minors.
He had a solid rookie campaign, hitting .278/.330/.424 in 113 games with 10 homers and 42 RBI, finishing runner-up to Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs in the Rookie of the Year voting.
The 21-year-old was slowed by injuries in 1962, limited to 80 games, hitting .282/.355/.395 with five homers and 26 RBI.
Healthy in 1963, Torre caught 105 games and also played 37 games at first base as manager Bobby Bragan sought to keep the youngster’s bat in the lineup. Torre hit .293/.350/.431 in 142 games with 14 home runs and 71 RBI, earning his first All-Star Game berth.
In 1964, Torre blossomed into a full-fledged star for Milwaukee, hitting .321/.365/.498 with 20 home runs in 154 games, driving in 109 runs. He was a starter for the National League in the All-Star game and finished fifth in the Most Valuable Player voting.
In 1965, his final season in Milwaukee, Torre was again selected to start at catcher for the National League and won his only career Gold Glove at the position, while hitting .291/.372/.489 with 27 home runs and 80 RBI.
After the 1965 season, the Braves moved to Atlanta, where Torre played three more seasons before he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for the 1969 season.
In 1971, Torre was converted to third base and was named the NL’s MVP after leading the league with a .363 batting average, 230 hits and 137 RBI.
After the 1974 season, Torre was dealt to the New York Mets, where he was a part-time player for the last 2½ seasons of his career. He was released by the Mets on June 18, 1977, but it was part of the next phase of his career—he took over as the Mets’ manager the same day.
His playing career may not have been Hall of Fame caliber, but it was a great one. He hit .297/.365/.452 in 18 seasons, finishing with 2,342 hits, 252 home runs and 1,185 RBI.
Torre was a nine-time All-Star—three times for Milwaukee, twice for Atlanta and four times with the Cardinals.
Torre managed the Mets for parts of five seasons, fired at the end of the 1981 campaign after going 286-420 and never finishing higher than fifth.
He was immediately hired by the Braves and led Atlanta to the postseason in 1982, their first playoff trip in 13 years, thanks in large part to a record-setting 13-0 start.
Torre had the Braves in contention again in 1983, finishing three games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, but was fired after Atlanta slumped to 80-82 in 1984. In three years with the Braves, his teams were 257-229.
Torre returned to managing on Aug. 1, 1990, when he was named skipper of the Cardinals. Torre led the Cardinals to a second-place finish in the National League East in 1991 but was fired June 16, 1995, with the club 20-27 and in fourth place in the NL Central.
He posted a 351-354 record in parts of six seasons at the helm in St. Louis.
But in November 1996, after Buck Showalter was fired as skipper, the Yankees handed the reins to Torre.
Hired to headlines such as the New York Post’s infamous “Clueless Joe,” Torre quickly won over the New York fans and media by guiding the Yankees to their first World Series title in 18 years in 1996.
Three more World Series wins followed in 1998, 1999 and 2000 and New York won pennants in 2001 and 2003.
The Yankees were a playoff team in all 12 seasons Torre managed them. Torre is second in Yankee history with 1,173 wins, behind only Hall of Fame skipper Joe McCarthy’s 1,460 from 1931-46. His overall record with the Yankees was 1,173-767.
Torre left the Yankees after he felt the club low-balled him on a contract offer and was hired to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2008 season.
He led the Dodgers to back-to-back NL West titles in 2008-09, but after an 80-82 finish in 2010, retired from managing.
In three seasons in Los Angeles, Torre led the Dodgers to a 259-227 record.
For his career, parts of 29 seasons in all as a manager, Torre was 2,326-1,997.
Torre took a job as Major League Baseball’s executive vice president for baseball operations in February 2011, a job he still holds.