On Sept. 16, 2009, the New York Yankees and several other Major League teams released their preliminary 2010 season schedules.
When looking at the Yankees' schedule there are several series that stand out.
Two of those are the season-opening and closing series against the rivaled Red Sox. Series against the Red Sox are always highly anticipated because of the long grudge that these two teams hold for each other.
But the countdown has begun for the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That is not because the Yankees and Dodgers are rivals, but because the series will serve as a homecoming. The 2010 series against the Dodgers will mark the first time in a few years that most Yankees fans can see their team and Joe Torre on the same field.
The Yankees' 2010 schedule won't be made official for a few weeks, but Yankee fans are hoping that the Dodgers remain on the schedule. (Of course, Torre could make his return to the Bronx as early as this year if the Bronx Bombers and the Los Angeles Dodgers face each other in the World Series.)
Some Yankees fans will have mixed feelings about Torre. He released a book in the 2008 offseason that bashed some of his former players. Torre was an angel in the eyes of many fans and when he published the book it changed their opinions about him and left a bad taste in their mouths.
Torre was in New York this season with his Dodgers, but it was in Queens against the New York Mets. Mets fans, and most probably a few Yankees fans in the crowd, gave a great ovation to Torre every time he walked out to the mound to make a pitching change. Mets fans remember him as the team's brief player/manager in 1976, before he retired to focus on managing.
Torre retired from playing with a career batting average of .297. In 18 years he slugged 252 home runs and drove in 1,185 runs. He was close to knocking off the gates of the Hall of Fame and reaching the elite 3,000 hits club, but he retired with 2,342 hits.
Torre would find another way to get into Ye Old Shine of Baseball.
After leaving the Mets in 1981, Torre decided to stay in the National League and manage the Mets' long-time rival, the Atlanta Braves. He managed the Braves from 1982 to 1984 before moving on to life off of the baseball field. He became a broadcaster for the California Angels, now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and would not manage baseball again until 1990.
That year Torre took the helm as manager in St. Louis, replacing the popular Whitey Herzhog. While he was in St. Louis, critics predicted that the Cardinals would finish in last place.
Torre proved them all wrong. He helped his team post up winning records in every season that he was there.
He was fired in June 1995 as part of the rebuilding of the team, while Anheuser-Busch was getting ready to sell the Cardinals. The firing of Torre could go down as the worst firing in baseball history.
Then the Yankees called on Joe Torre to become their manager. This marked a turn-around in Torre's career.
When Torre accepted the job as Yankee manager in 1996, he knew how much risk there was. George M. Steinbrenner III, the Yankees principal owner at the time, had a habit of firing any manger that would not put a World Series ring around his finger.
The fear that Steinbrenner instilled in his team's managers produced their downfall. Torre was on the hot seat from the start, but made one thing clear to the media: He was not afraid of them or of "King" George M. Steinbrenner III.
New York City: Just hearing those words often makes sports stars nervous because of the playoff atmosphere at every game. If you fall short of winning, prepare for the worst.
Joe Torre was unshaken by these words. In fact, when he was told that newspapers ran headlines calling him "Clueless Joe," he did nothing and just disregarded it. He passed on his message of not paying attention to the media to his players, and it really helped.
The Yankees went on to make the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons in New York and Torre became a fan favorite.
He won the American League Manager of the Year Award in 1996 and 1998. Most importantly, Torre led the Yankees to the World Series in his first year at the helm and was able to quench the thirst of George Steinbrenner for a World Series Championship.
The Yankees lost to the Indians in the 1997 playoffs but would make a quick return to the World Series in 1998.
That year the New York Yankees set a then-record of 114 wins. The Yankees continued their baseball dominance, winning the World Series in 1998, 1999, and 2000. George Steinbrenner was no longer thirsty and intended on keeping Torre for as long as possible.
The Yankee dynasty came to an end in 2001, when New York lost the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The same thing occurred in 2003 against the young Florida Marlins, and the Yankees have been absent from the World Series ever since.
The 2004 season was just salt on the wounds from the previous fall, when the hated Red Sox were able to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS and go on to win the World Series.
From 2005 to 2007, the Yankees were not able to get out of the first round of the playoffs, and according to Steinbrenner the root of the problem would always be Torre.
In the middle of the 2007 ALCS against the Cleveland Indians, Steinbrenner announced that if the Yankees could not get past the Indians, the Yankees would not renew Torre's contract.
Upon hearing the news, the Yankees focused on winning one more for Joe and helping him get his job back the next year.
Yankee fans also rallied around their manager that night at Yankee Stadium. The park shook every time that Torre went out to the mound—any walk out to the mound could have been his last.
The Yankee players thought otherwise and were able to win one last one for Joe. But the Yankees were defeated the next night and Torre's future was unclear.
Torre later rejected the Yankees' contract offer, which seemed insulting according to the New York media. Torre would go on to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was as far away from New York as one can go.
Several current Yankees shared their thoughts on possibly facing their former manager. Yankee captain and all-time hits leader Derek Jeter said, "He’s like a second father to me, and a lot of people that are in here. I’m happy that he’s happy. He’s given me every indication that he enjoys being out there in L.A."
Let the countdown begin to the 2010 series against the Dodgers! Who knows—we could get the series early in November.