Torre's move echoes Dodgers' history
Iconic New York figure resembles transplanted franchise in LA
The first words of several national stories chronicling the hiring of a new Los Angeles manager have dealt with Brooklyn-native Joe Torre's childhood dislike of the Dodgers, Flatbush edition.So happy 50th anniversary on that move West, Dodgers. And here's to the past not only catching up with the present, but coming to grips with it. The appointment of Torre went down fast, too quickly to immediately assess its historical significance. But, really, this is a shift perhaps unequaled in the long history of managerial revolving doors and good-old-boy networks. The coolest thing about it is that as they prepare to celebrate the golden anniversary of their seismic transcontinental move and are brainstorming ways of commemoration, the perfect symbolic parallel falls in the Dodgers' laps. The man who for 12 years has been the face of New York is now going Hollywood. As a kid, Torre was a fan of the New York Giants who, as the Dodgers' enduring mortal enemies, now become his chief rivals. Observers who wonder how this West Coast row measures up to the apocalyptic Yankees-Red Sox feud will now have an expert witness. Considering how he made his exit, Torre may have his own little personal war with the Yankees, which will presumably play out in the Grapefruit League. Although the Dodgers' Spring Training schedule has not been finalized, it is anticipated to include at least one exhibition against the Bombers, as it has every March. Alas, that is as good as it's going to get, because in 2008 the Dodgers draw the American League Central in Interleague Play. Next Spring Training, incidentally, will be the Dodgers' final one in Vero Beach, Fla., ending a 55-year residence. Their preseason base will shift to Arizona in 2009 -- completing the Westward migration Torre has now joined. Another ironic aspect of this development is Torre's hiring by the Dodgers at the age of 67. Walter Alston, the long-time manager through the Brooklyn-to-Los Angeles move, was forced into retirement at the end of the 1976 season, at the age of 64. At the time, Alston was generally regarded an anachronism who had lost touch with the modern game and its modern players. Nothing more than a statistical quirk. No one gets today's players better than Torre, who in the Bronx successfully dealt with a range of personalities and egos.
Besides, seniority works well in baseball. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox will also turn 67 in May. Jack McKeon came out of retirement to take over the Marlins at 73, and led them to a World Series title. Casey Stengel was 71 when he assumed command of the 1962 Mets -- the team which replaced the Dodgers in New York.So managers have undertaken new challenges at a comparable age. What none has ever done before, though, is switch jobs with 2,067 wins on his resume (runner-up here is Bucky Harris, hired by the 1955 Tigers with 1,996 career wins). This will not be Torre's first job in Southern California. But his last uniform there was shirt-and-tie: He served as analyst on Angels telecasts from to 1985 to mid-1990, an extended gig between his dismissal by the Braves and hiring by the Cardinals. More intrigue is on the way, of course, concerning how many of Torre's former Bombers cohorts will eventually join him in Chavez Ravine. The exodus could be considerable. Consider the parade led by Grady Little, following his hiring by the Dodgers in December 2005. By the time the Dodgers hit camp a couple of months later, others with a Red Sox background on board included Nomar Garciaparra, Bill Mueller and Derek Lowe. So while coaches Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa are already rumored to be on the way, some players may also fall in. After all, the Dodgers could use a third baseman, and who knows who else might follow? Not to start any Hot Stove fires ...
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.