By Howie Rumberg
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox spent decades trying to beat each other, no holds barred. On this day, however, they were a mutual admiration society.
And why not? They were going to the Hall of Fame together.
With a combined eight World Series titles and more than 7,500 wins, the managerial trio made it to Cooperstown in results announced on Monday. Each was unanimously selected when the 16 voters on the expansion era committee met a day earlier.
“They’re not the easiest guys to manage against, that’s for sure. But it was fun. It was always a battle,” Cox said Monday at the winter meetings. “And I consider them enemies on the field, but friends off the field.”
All three exceeded the magic benchmark of 2,000 wins – only Connie Mack and John McGraw have won more.
“Managing against them, you certainly learned things,” said Torre, now an executive vice president for Major League Baseball. “I am honored to go into the Hall with these two guys.”
Induction ceremonies will be held July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Candidates needed 12 votes for election. No one else on the 12-person ballot that included former players’ union head Marvin Miller and late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner got more than six votes.
Torre became the fifth manager to win four World Series championships, leading the Yankees to titles in 1996 and from 1998-00 – beating Cox’s Braves twice. After making only one trip to the playoffs in 14 seasons with the New York Mets, St. Louis and Atlanta, Torre guided the Yankees to the postseason in all 12 of his years in New York with a cool, patient demeanor. His popularity rankled Steinbrenner.
“George Steinbrenner changed my life giving me that opportunity at the end of ’95,” said Torre, the seventh Yankees manager to be elected to the Hall. “He just wanted to win. He felt he owed it to the city. Maybe, the fact I was a New Yorker, it really struck a nerve with me.”
Torre finished his career by leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to two NL West titles in three seasons, retiring after 2010 with a record of 2,326-1,997. He’s the only manager to have more than 2,000 hits as a player – he was the 1971 NL MVP – and 2,000 wins in the dugout.
“Joe taught a lot of us about how to win the right way and lose the right way,” La Russa said.
The savvy La Russa won World Series titles with Oakland in 1989 and with St. Louis in 2006 and 2011, retiring days after beating the Texas Rangers in a seven-game thriller. Of the nine managers with three or more World Series titles, the other seven all have been inducted.
La Russa finished with the third-most wins by a manager in a career that began with the Chicago White Sox in 1979 and ended with a record of 2,728-2,365.
“I miss the winning and losing,” La Russa said. “Someday I’ll be with a team, I think. I’d like to be part of the competition again.”
Braves’ long run
Cox’s managerial career began in 1978 with Atlanta, but he was fired after four seasons – only one above .500. A four-year run in Toronto ended in 1985 with an AL East title, and Ted Turner lured him back to the Braves as their GM.
Cox returned to the dugout in 1990, and following one losing season he went on one of the most successful regular-season runs by any skipper, leading the Braves to 14 straight division titles and a World Series championship in 1995.
He retired in 2010 fourth behind La Russa in career wins with a record of 2,504-2,001. Cigar-chomping and fiercely loyal to his players, Cox was ejected a major league record 159 times.
Two of his pitchers during the remarkable stretch during the ‘90s, 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, head the newcomers on this year’s players’ ballot. Results of voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is scheduled for Jan. 8.
“I just hope Glav and Mad Dog can be on the stage with me,” Cox said. “That would be the final finishing touch, going in with those two.”
Miller, the pioneering head of the players’ association from 1966-81, was rejected for admission to the Hall for the sixth time he appeared on a committee ballot. He fell one vote short of induction in 2010 and received no more than six votes this year.
This year’s ballot covered baseball’s expansion era. Players, managers, umpires, executives whose most significant impact was from 1973 and later were considered as part of a three-year cycle. The golden era (1947-72) will be voted on in 2014 and the pre-integration era (1871-1946) will be judged in 2015.