Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Joe Torre, 1998: The Beginning

Joe Torre and I at the Bronx Zoo, 1998

They say it is best to start at the beginning, and that would be November 1998, when my girlfriend (now wife) brought me to the first annual Bronx Zoo Christmas Lights, also known as the Holiday Lights Festival.  At the time, New York Yankee skipper, Joe Torre, was there with his wife and children to throw the switch and begin the festivities.  Dressed in a dark wool coat and a green and red elf hat, Mr. Torre made quick work of flipping the large switch that lit the festive figures.
I watched from afar as he shook many people’s hands, stopping to speak to some of the younger children that were clamoring to meet him.  His wife and two children meandered off to take in some of the scenery, immune to the excitement that meant being part of the Torre family.
My girlfriend, armed with several new Rawlings baseballs and a pen, took me over to him, introduced herself and then introduced me.  I shook his hand and handed him the ball and pen.  As he signed the baseballs, I asked him if I could take a picture with him.  An associate took the picture and that was the end of it.  Or so I thought.
A few months later, I found a local book signing for his new book, Joe Torre’s Ground Rules for Winners.  Armed with a quite unflattering photo from the zoo lights event, I grabbed a copy of the book and waited patiently on line for an autograph.  A huge sign hung next to Mr. Torre that stated, “Absolutely no autographs except for Joe Torre’s Ground Rules for Winners.” 
I walked up to Mr. Torre, leaned in and said, “I know you are not supposed to sign anything but your book, but I have a photo of the two of us from the zoo event, and I would love you to autograph it for me.”
“Pull it out quick,” Torre responded.  He looked down at the picture, glanced up at me with a huge grin and joked, “What, were you drunk or something?”
“And that hat looks so great on you,” I responded almost immediately.  He signed the photo and my book. 
Telling that story over the years made me realize something.   It isn’t simply the signed ball that sits in the case, or the autographed photo on the wall - it is the story, the memory of the meeting, the laughs and camaraderie that make the experience memorable.  There I was, an average Joe, joking around with the manager of the 1998 World Champion Yankees.  It felt good, and it propelled me from being a fan of the game, to being an autograph experience fanatic.


  1. Nice job Pete! Thanks for the "props!"

  2. And so the legend starts here...I can't agree more the stories are priceless and I look forward to the stories yet to be told and ones to be formed in the future...PS I think a book is waiting to be written here!

  3. What a great story! Isn't it amazing what can happen in the most ordinary places when you least expect it!

  4. Thanks Guy. That is a big focus of my blog, being at the right place at the right time and having respect for the sports figure. Those factors have contributed to so many of the stories I have and a lot of great experiences!

  5. Great story. Joe Torre can go anywhere in the world of baseball but he is and always will be a New Yorker and Yankee at heart....and a gentleman.
    These are the stories fans want to hear about. Good luck in the autograph hunt.

  6. Pete,

    Would you be interested in doing a guest post on my site, giving some fan tips on how to improve your chances of getting an autograph? My site is if you want to check it out. My contact email is on the site if you are interested. Your post would be credited to you and could provide quite a bit of extra exposure for your blog. I love what you're doing here.