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December 7, 2010
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to a very special press conference in which we're going to honor the legendary manager who's stepped down following the 2010 season. Find out their thoughts about their legendary careers and what is next for each of them, and if they plan on return to go the dugout. Why not, we'll ask that as well. You also get your chance to ask some questions in a few moments.
But first I want to turn things over to the Commissioner of baseball, Mr. Bud Selig.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you. Good morning. Every generation in our sport is defined by the people in it, and no people more important than its managers. And our generation has been really fortunate.
So it's an honor for me today to pay tribute to Bobby Cox, Cito Gaston, Lou Piniella, and Joe Torre for all their years of service and devotion to the game of baseball both on and off the field.
Unfortunately, due to a family medical situation Bobby Cox had to leave the winter meetings and is unable to join us today, but my friend John Schierholtz, president of the Atlanta Braves, is here. I don't know if you've ever been a pinch hitter before, but you are now.
This is truly an historic gathering of the great managers that baseball has ever had. I want to thank Bill Madden for making this suggestion to me. I guess, Billy, it was about two months ago now, that at this year's winter meetings would serve as the ideal place to bring these great managers back to honor. And I know how much it means to them, but it also does to me, and I'm sure to a lot of you.
I've gotten to know each of these men over the years, and I'm proud to call each one of them a friend. While I'm certain all four of them will continue to contribute to the game in some fashion, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate their remarkable accomplishments as leaders on the field.
They're role models for all who aspire to manage in the big leagues. Between them they have won eight World Series championships, 14 pennants, and 93 combined seasons as managers. Their eight World Championships came in a span of 11 years: Lou's in 1990 with Cincinnati; Cito in '92 and '93 with Toronto; Bobby in '95 in Atlanta; and Joe in '96, '98, '99, and 2000 with the New York Yankees.
First I'd like to acknowledge the accomplishments of four-time BBWAA manager of the year, Bobby Cox. He led the Braves to 14 consecutive National League East division crowns from 1991 to 2005, including five National League pennants and a 1995 World Series championship. Along the way he became the fourth manager in baseball history to win 2000 games with one club finishing with 2058. I'm very sorry Bobby was unable to join us today. He had a remarkable career, and I personally want to thank him for his years of dedicated service to baseball. But John, I would appreciate comments on Bobby since no one worked closer with him than you did.
JOHN SCHIERHOLTZ: Thank you, Commissioner.
Coming to see Babe Ruth at-bat and watching Eddie Goodell come out of the dugout, that's probably not what you came for, but here I am. I just spoke to Bobby. He's so sad that he can't be here, because he was really looking forward to celebrating this recognition and honor with his fellow managers of great repute.
He has great admiration, as you all know, and love and respect for the game of baseball as well as he does for these gentlemen who sit here being honored today with Bobby.
I can't say Bobby's words, but I know how much he loves the game, how much he respects the game. How he gave his heart and soul and passion to it every single day as these guys have. And if he were here talking and saying what was in his heart, he would say he would be honored and proud to be sitting on this panel and being recognized with these great men here today with him.
So on behalf of Bobby and his family, I recognize on his behalf and his family's behalf, the Commissioner's great recognition of Bobby for the wonderful years he spent, and the great contributions he's given to our great game of baseball. So on behalf of Bobby, thank you all very much.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you, John, very much.
Cito Gaston led the Toronto Blue Jays to consecutive World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. At that time he was just the third manager since the division four was created in 1969 to win four division titles in five years. Joining Hall of Famers Earl Weaver, and now the late, unfortunately, Sparky Anderson.
He ranks first in Blue Jays history with 1764 games managed, and 913. Cito, it's an honor to have you here with us, and invite you to say a few words. Pleasure to have you.
CITO GASTON: Thank you.
Good morning, everyone. First of all, I'd like to thank the commissioner for having us here, and I'd also like to thank Phyllis for getting us here. Of course, we are going to miss Bobby today that he's not here. These guys sitting at the table here, these managers, go with Bobby Cox first. Bobby and I go way back to playing winter ball together, to playing in the Texas League where Bobby hit a three-run home run off Wayne Granger to put us into the playoffs against the Dodgers. We end up winning the Texas League championship.
I also played for Bobby for one year, and then he brought me over to Toronto. Unfortunately he left, but it also gave me a chance to have a chance as a manager. So I owe Bobby Cox a lot, not only as a friend, but a great manager, and someone that I admire quite a bit.
Along with that, I owe Hank Aaron that too because Hank is the one that got me back in the game.
Then I look down and see Joe Torre. Joe Torre and I were teammates my first year I was called up to the big leagues for that one month (laughing). All you guys know in this room what kind of man Joe Torre is. Can't say enough good things about him. He's a class act all the way. Great manager and has done a lot for this game of baseball.
Then you look at Lou Piniella there, I think everybody in this room loves talking to Lou. I know I do. I love to talk to Lou. Any time we visit out in Seattle and we're playing against Lou, I always look for Lou. He doesn't have to look for me, I'm going to look for Lou. I was fortunate this morning coming that down the hall, there was Lou. So I got a chance to talk to Lou early today, and that was great for me.
Here's a man, too, that gave his heart and soul to this game, and you guys know that. Not only was he a good manager, a great manager, he's a great player. So that's what my life's been about as far as baseball. I've met a lot of good people, lot of good friends. I've enjoyed it, I've loved the game. I want to see the game continue to grow and get better.
I want to thank all of you people in the press over the years who have put up with me and dealt with me. Certainly like to thank all the fans who have supported this game, and we want you to continue to support this game because to me there is no other game in the world like baseball. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Thank you, Cito.
Three-time Baseball Writers Association of America, Manager of the Year, Lou Piniella, led the Cincinnati Reds to the 1990 World Series championship with a sweep of the Oakland A's. He managed the Seattle Mariners to their first postseason in club history in 1995. The first of four postseason berths earned by the club under his leadership. Seattle won American League record 116 games in 2001, and his 840 wins as Seattle manager is a franchise record.
Lou and I have known each other actually since I owned the Brewers. He played for Kansas City and the Yankees. And this morning I discovered I should have known things were going to be tough because we bought the Seattle Pilots on March 31st, and Lou got traded three day afterwards, so he never played for me and I'm sorry about that. But he's had a remarkable career and had a great effect on this great sport.
So, Lou, congratulations.
LOU PINIELLA: Thank you, Commissioner. Thank you on behalf of Major League Baseball for having us here.
I'm honored to be at this table, being recognized with just three other great managers and outstanding human beings. I've known them all for a long, long time. I've always from afar looked at their careers and learned from them. At the same time I've always enjoyed talking to them when we've had chances on the field and off the field. Because the way you learn in this business is through communication, and the more you can listen, the more you're going to learn.
Look, I've been fortunate. I had a long career as a player. I didn't get to the big leagues until I was 25 years old. I think I was the oldest American League Rookie of the Year at age 26. But I did last until I was 41. I fooled them that long.
Then I got into the coaching and managing business. And I've got to thank Mr. Steinbrenner for giving me that opportunity. He took a chance on me back in '86, managing the Yankees. It started a 23-year Major League career. I had a lot of fun. I did, obviously, the best I could do. I managed in five different places.
I want to thank every organization for giving me that opportunity. The people in the organization, the general managers that hired me, the owners that paid me, the media. The media has been very, very fair to me my whole career. The fans, with a name like Lou, they can boo you or Lou you, so it doesn't affect you too much (laughing).
Look, I did the best I could all these years. I'm honored that I'm up here with Joe and with Cito.
Now, Johnny Schierholtz and I, here's a guy that's had a remarkable career himself. And he and I were in the National Guard together when we were at the Kansas City Royals. John was the farm director and I was one of the players, so our country was in good shape even then (laughing).
Anyway, Commissioner, thank you. I'm honored, and I look forward to my retirement. I'm just so happy that I've been a small part of Major League Baseball for such a long time.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Pleasure to have you, Lou.
Joe Torre led the New York Yankees to four World Series titles, six American League pennants, 12 postseason appearances, including 10 American League East titles in his 12 years as manager. His 1998 to 2000 Yankees became the first club to earn three consecutive World Series championships since the 1972-74 Oakland Athletics. He won two Baseball Writers Association of America, American League Manager of the Year awards. He also led the L.A. Dodgers to two straight National League West titles and consecutive NLCS appearances in 2008 and '09.
I've known Joe for, well, over 50 years. His brother, Frank, played for the Braves. Actually, I took care of you one summer, Joe, I don't know if that accounts for whatever happened to either one of us. But anyway, he too has been a great credit to our sport in every way.
Joe, a few words.
JOE TORRE: Thanks, Bud.
You know, this game has always been brand-new to me. You know, something you did as a kid. All of a sudden you make the Major Leagues, you get a chance to play against the great players, play with a lot of great players. And I know when I go back and think about my career, and I really didn't take many opportunities to do that while I was still doing it, because I figured I still had work to do. I still get goose bumps, because it's a great game. I have a great deal of respect for the game. Players change, but the game stays the same. The way you go out there and compete, and I've been very fortunate. I was a player. Started with Milwaukee, and we moved to Atlanta in '66, traded to the Cardinals, then traded on to the Mets and I never had to make a decision on a career, folks. That's pretty good. Because while I was a player with the Mets, I became manager in '77. Thank you to them for giving me the opportunity. After I was fired -- if you're going to manage a lot of places, you have to get fired. Went on to Atlanta, and then on to actually a broadcasting career for six years, working for Gene Autry in Anaheim, and then Dowell Maxwell hired me in St. Louis and started all over, started that round again, because I wound up managing the three teams that I played for. Not too many people get an opportunity to do that.
Then, of course, when I walk in airports and places everybody knows me, and I have to really thank George Steinbrenner for giving me the opportunity to do that and trusting me with his teams, because that was no question, the crown jewel of my career to be with the Yankees in my hometown, and then to get into all -- I'd never been to the World Series as a player, and to have an opportunity to manage in six of them was quite a thrill.
Got a little stressful for me there the last few years, and thank the Dodgers for giving me the opportunity to see if managing could be fun again. It certainly has been. But I think I was telling Lou earlier, when you look out over the faces and you're having meetings you realize somebody younger should be doing this stuff.
I thank Cito, of course. He mentioned our relationship, and Bobby and Lou and I. Very few people when they retire, a lot of people really don't have a chance to make that decision. Usually somebody else makes it for them in this game. All four of us had the opportunity to make this decision on our own.
I'm certainly going to miss the association with the players, with the coaches, with the fans. The media has been amazing as far as I'm concerned because they've, you know, been a little combative at times in New York over my 12 years. But it's never been boring, folks. I want to thank you for that.
When I mentioned to my wife during the course of this last year that I think this was going to be it, she didn't necessarily believe me, but now she realizes. She likes to refer to my uniform as my play clothes, that I wasn't wearing my play clothes anymore. And I'll get a chance to watch my daughter and her softball exploits. Because even though she'd rather listen to Andre Ethier or Mattingly on how to hit, at least I can go watch.
Again, I want to thank the Commissioner and Major League Baseball for being there for me, because I really don't know what other way of life I would have really enjoyed as much as I've enjoyed what I've done here.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We'll open the floor to questions. Just remember we are being broadcast live on MLB Network today.
Q. Want to ask both Joe Torre and Lou Piniella their thoughts about Ron Santo. Joe, you played against him a number of years, competed against him. Lou, you got to know him well the last few years. Each of your guys thoughts on Ron and his passing.
JOE TORRE: You know, Ron, to me, I competed against Ron way back when there was a Journal American game when he was playing. It's like Journal American against the world. I was for the New York team, and he was for the other team. At that time he was a catcher and I was a third baseman. Certainly reversed our roles.
But always a competitor. Got to know him. We were fortunate enough to be on a number of All-Star teams together. Never lost his sense of excitement for the game, always loved the game. Right up to the last time I saw him when he had his legs amputated and knowing what he was dealing with his whole life, the enthusiasm he maintained for life, and the game of baseball, I just feel very privileged to have known him.
LOU PINIELLA: Ron was just an outstanding human being, made my four years in Chicago very enjoyable. Talked baseball with him all the time. Always had a good 15- or 20-minute session with him every day about the lineup, about the team, about what the guys were doing.
Also on the road we'd make it a point to go out to dinner once every road trip at least, and he always wanted to pay. It's sad, it was almost shocking when I was informed. But, listen, he had bladder cancer that nobody knew anything about. I had just talked to Peter Chasar back in Chicago the day before, and he didn't know anything about it.
Look, we've lost a true friend, and Chicago has lost an icon. Just a wonderful, wonderful sports figure. He loved the Chicago Cubs.
I was a manager getting beat this past summer and I had to get him up when we would talk. My life was enriched from knowing Ron Santo for the past four years, and I really enjoyed working with him and talking to him.
Q. Cito, yesterday it was announced that Pat was elected to the Hall of Fame, and there is a decent chance that Roberto Alomar will be elected by the writers. What would it mean to you to see those two guys go in together next July?
CITO GASTON: That would be great. As you know, the job that Pat Gillick's done over the years as far as a general manager and scout, he's done a great job. Everywhere he goes he seems to come up with a winner. So to me he's a Hall of Famer.
And Robbie Alomar, what can I say about Robbie? Robbie's probably one of the better players I ever managed or didn't have to manage. But I'm pulling for him. Pulling for both of them. Hope they do go in, and they well deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
LOU PINIELLA: I'd like to say a word, too, about Pat. First of all, congratulations, well deserved honor. I worked with him for three years in Seattle, and I mean, the guy is good at what he does. That's obvious. We had a really good relationship. He's all business. Loved the game of baseball, had a tremendous passion for it, and had a really, really good skill, like Cito mentioned, of putting things together. We won quite a few ballgames over there in Seattle together. Pat would put the teams together and let me manage them.
Yeah, just a really, really good human being, a good friend, and I'm really happy for him.
Q. I was wondering if you followed the Derrick Jeter contract negotiations, and your thoughts on maybe how the situation was handled?
JOE TORRE: Well, Derrick is no question he's -- I don't wear those rings without Derrick Jeter on our clubs. We're fortunate to have Derrick, my safe at home foundation, we honored him in November, and this is before he signed. He's a very private person. I said at that time, and I'm glad it turned out that way, it's hard for me to believe that the Yankees wouldn't want him back, and I know that's the only ballclub he's ever wanted to play for. I'm just happy it worked out for him.
I talked to him a couple of times over the last few -- actually, I talked to him once over the last few weeks, and we communicated through the texting, which my daughter taught me how to do. He's, as I say, he's very private. I'm sure he's happy it's over with. And what can I say, he's a special young man for me. It's not only the baseball part of his game, but he's been a great role model for all the young kids. To do that in New York, especially as a single player, where there are a lot of distractions that can certainly cut into what you do, I think he's been tremendous and hopefully continues to stay healthy.
Q. All three of you men know a thing or two about what it takes to get into the postseason. I'm curious, what are your thoughts on the proposal to expand the playoffs and the extra wildcard?
JOE TORRE: I think that's for our committee, right, Commissioner?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Committee will meet in a half hour.
JOE TORRE: He's sworn us to secrecy.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: This is a democracy, but it just ended (laughing).
LOU PINIELLA: I think it's a wonderful idea (laughing).
CITO GASTON: I do too. I think it's a great idea. It will cause more interest at the end of the season. Teams that are not in it could be in it. So I'm not sure what the commission will do with that, but I think it's something to be thought on, and perhaps, you know, I think it's good.
JOE TORRE: I will comment. I think the only thing I felt that I had a problem with was there really wasn't any kind of a negative to being the wildcard team. And I felt that winning division didn't have as much clout as it probably should have.
So in saying that, I'd say that I think something could be done to make that probably a better playing field.
Q. At any time during your playing career did you aspire to become a manager? Did you ever look at the managers you played for and thought I'd like to give that a shot?
CITO GASTON: Not at all. Most of you people in this room that were around when I became a manager, actually Paul Beeston gave me a chance at it, and Mr. Peter Hardy, along with Pat Gillick, and I had no desire to do that. In fact, when they asked me to take over as manager, I said, you know what, it's not too often you can come to work and enjoy what you're doing. Because I loved to teach. I was the hitting coach on that team. It was fun.
I tell you what, I want to go back and thank the late and great Sparky Anderson for really twisting my arm and saying, hey, Cito, take it and see what you can do with it. I had Sparky as a third base coach in San Diego one year, my first year at expansion draft. So there are a lot of people I should thank for pushing me toward being a manager, and it's been a ball. If you haven't tried it, and you get a chance, please do it.
Q. Lou, you had expressed some interest during your time with the Rays when you retire of staying involved with the team and being maybe an advisor or something like that. Have you given that any further thought? Is that a possibility with any of the teams?
LOU PINIELLA: Well, I haven't really given any thought to what my future brings. I've enjoyed being home. I've done a little fishing, played a little golf. We're moving into a new home. I've enjoyed my family, so we'll see what the future brings.
There is no immediate need to make any decision. I haven't really given it any thought. Right now I'm just enjoying what I'm doing, which is nothing.
Q. John, you had so many great pitchers in Atlanta, you and Bobby Cox had so many great pitchers in Atlanta during that 14-year run of titles. Are we ever going to have anymore 300 game winners? You had Maddox, you had Glavine. Any thought on 300-game winners?
JOHN SCHIERHOLTZ: I hope for the good of the game we do. But Tommy Glavine, and John Smoltz and those guys pitch every fifth day. It was for me and Bobby. I don't know how it was for the other guys sitting up here, but it was a delight. A lot of their excellence is inborn. It's who they are, it's what they made themselves. A lot of that credit goes to Bobby and how he managed them and how he cared for them and looked after them.
So, yeah, I don't know if we'll have another 300-game winner. I hope we do. It's good for the game.
Q. Joe, can you describe what it was like to manage Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, and what are some of your good memories from that?
JOE TORRE: Like nothing I've ever been involved with. I mean, I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and I remember what the Giants and Dodgers are all about. Of Course, that is from a distance. But the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry is unparalleled as far as I'm concerned. Played them 18, 19 times every year. And every game was a season in itself.
I know that the people of Boston were very nice to me. I'd walk into the ballpark and everybody would say good luck, and I'm not sure what that meant. But it was passionate. As long as this game stays passionate, I think it will continue to grow.
But I know at the end of each series, either I'd call Terry or he'd call me and say I'm glad this is over for another five or six weeks because it's draining. It really is. And the people, how they love their baseball. Of course, they're happy today with what happened last night in Foxboro.
But I've got to tell you one story. I was managing the Yankees, coming down the elevator, staying at the Ritz Carlton in Boston. This couple gets on and he looks at me and he says you're Joe Torre.
I said, yes, I am.
He said we're going to beat you tonight.
I said well, I hope it doesn't happen, but if it does, it does.
Now I know the wood is burning. There is something else that's going to come out. And the elevator continues to head toward the lobby. He says, you know, if I had a choice of capturing Saddam Hussein or beating the Yankees, I would pick beating the Yankees, and he walks out of the elevator. And the door closed on me again because I didn't press the button. But that was the best. That was the best. Gives you an idea what goes on in that town.
THE MODERATOR: Before we adjourn, Mr. Commissioner?
COMMISSIONER SELIG: All of you heard me say this, and I believe very deeply baseball is a social institution. With that goes enormous social responsibility. Our game recognizes it's only as strong as the people and the communities that support it. Each of the managers that we are here to celebrate is involved in important charitable efforts.
So on behalf of Major League Baseball, I'm honored to make a significant contribution in each of their names to the charity of their choice. Bobby Cox's will go to Homeless Pets Foundation. Cito's will go to Jay's Care Foundation. Lou's will go to BAT. And Joe's will go to Safe At Home Foundation.
I want to personally thank you for being great representatives of our sport both on and off the field. And I say in closing to the four of you, you did the ultimate. You made this sport better for your generation, and I hope all of the managers who come forward will set the great example that the four of you did.
End of FastScripts