11/12/2003 8:34 PM ET
Torre launches new foundation
Who's Who of New York turns out for fund-raiser
NEW YORK -- He earned acclaim as a player and commanded respect as a manager. He has won World Series. Wednesday night, Joe Torre began his quest to win a life serious.
Ten miles removed from his Brooklyn childhood home but a lifetime of denial removed from the abuse that terrified him within its walls, the Yankees manager presided over the formal launch of his charitable foundation at Battery Park's Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Torre's Safe at Home Foundation will strive to foster the quality of abuse-free environment for children that Torre himself lacked, and only recently has come to deal with.
"For most kids, home is a sanctuary," said Torre, who had become more open about his experiences with domestic violence during the 18 months that the groundwork was laid for his cause. "Many children, however, live in homes filled with violence and fear, and I know from personal experience how devastating growing up in a home like that can be."
Dedicated to an educational approach to ending the cycle of abuse, the Safe at Home Foundation initially will focus on the New York area, then a national campaign will follow.
The spotlight was cast on Joe and Ali Torre's endeavor by a gala, star-studded affair attended by a Who's Who of both baseball and entertainment. The turnout of 300-plus for the $250-a-plate function reflected the esteem for Torre of people who did not have to be asked twice.
As Billy Crystal, the evening's host, said, "This has been an extra serious issue for him to confront. That's how Joe is. He's at the point in his life where he can understand it, and embrace it as a cause."
"I feel so good about so many people being here," Torre said. "I was so hesitant to ask people to attend and help out, because I knew they would say 'Yes.'"
Among the yes-men and women was singer Norah Jones, the multiple-Grammy Award winner whose performance was the evening's musical highlight.
Also attending were Spike Lee, Jon Bon Jovi, Regis Philbin, Matthew Modine, Bob Costas and Stone Phillips.
The Yankees family, past and present, was represented by Roger Clemens, David Cone, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Don Zimmer and Yogi Berra.
Also in attendance was Bob Gibson, the Hall of Fame right-hander who was Torre's batterymate for four seasons in St. Louis, including 1971, when Torre hit .363 for a batting title.
The festive occasion, and its serious undertones, certainly made trivial Torre's disappointing showing earlier in the day in the American League Manager of the Year balloting.
The Torres established the foundation in the memory of Joe's mother, Margaret, the target of his father's abusive behavior.
Torre's dread of that environment reached such a level, he often stayed away from home rather than become a witness to it.
Now he wants to do all he can to make home a place children can run to, not away from.
"Our foundation will be dedicated to developing and funding educational programs to end the devastating cycle of domestic violence," Torre said, "so that every person has the chance to truly experience the joys of childhood and a safe and loving home.
"Domestic violence is a national tragedy that remains mostly hidden behind closed doors," he added. "Virtually every serious social problem is more likely to visit a child who has been raised in an abusive home."
So Torre's friends and admirers rallied to his cause Wednesday night.
Crystal, one of the manager's tighter friends, sounded like he wanted to be sure to attend a quasi-Yankees function while he still had the chance.
"George Steinbrenner is angry at me," Crystal said. "I've been traded for Jerry Seinfeld."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By Tom Singer / MLB.com