Joe Torre: A Traumatic Childhood and an All-Star Baseball Career
The ex-Yankees manager speaks out about his abuse as a child
Former Yankees manager and children’s advocate Joe Torre
courtesy of Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation
(page 1 of 4)
The year was 1949. About that much, he’s sure. The day, a Saturday most likely, could have been a rainy one. Or maybe it was sunny. It may have been the middle of summer. Or maybe a crisp fall day. Those details are a bit fuzzy. But what’s still clear in the mind of Joe Torre, who, at the time, was just 9 years old, is the scene that unfolded before him in his family’s quaint, wallpapered dining room in Marine Park, Brooklyn. His father, a plainclothes New York City police officer, somewhat stocky at 5’11”, had been fighting with Joes’s mother in the kitchen. The argument began to escalate, and spilled into the dining room. Joe was standing at one corner of the long, rectangular dining-room table; his father, still irate, to his left. To his right, stood his proud, Italian-born mother, who was a good bit smaller than his father, with a strong, yet delicate-looking face. In front of her was Joe’s 23-year-old sister, Rae. But the argument isn’t what stands out so vividly in his mind these 60-plus years later. What stands out is the knife in Rae’s hand. What stands out is his father telling her over and over, “Put the knife down, Rae, put the knife down,” and Rae refusing to comply. What stands out is his father’s hand reaching into a drawer of the china closet. What stands out is what he remembers being in that drawer: his father’s revolver. What stands out is Joe ripping the knife from his sister’s hand, throwing it onto the table. What stands out is his father, only after seeing the knife on the table, pulling his hand from the drawer.
Torre can’t quite recall what happened immediately after, except that things calmed down a bit. And, while this is an extreme example, there was constant fighting in the household when Torre was growing up. In fact, he experienced abuse even before he was born. Torre’s mother, who had lost a baby before she became pregnant with him, wasn’t supposed to get pregnant again, at least according to her husband. Upon discovering that she was pregnant again, her husband threw her down a flight of stairs. The incessant abuse towards his mother continued until two years after that incident with the knife. That’s when Torre’s brother Frank, at the time a 20-year-old minor-league baseball player in the Milwaukee Braves’ system, confronted their father. With the family sitting around the dining room table, Frank told their father to leave the house. “He said, ‘We don’t want anything, just leave mom and the house,’” Torre, now 73, recalls. “My dad was a bully—he was confronted and he walked away. It was sort of a sigh of relief.”