LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The manager's office in old Yankee Stadium was attached to a short hallway that players passed through as they entered or departed the clubhouse, and Joe Torre's desk was positioned in such a way that he could see everybody coming or going.
From time to time -- on rainy days, mostly -- he met with reporters in his office before games, and as he talked, Torre seemed to keep an eye out for a specific player or two that he wanted to speak with. When he saw them, he'd call out, to Paul O'Neill or Bernie Williams or Derek Jeter or David Cone. Maybe he wanted to check on an injury that had occurred the night before, or perhaps he had a specific question. The player would duck his head in the door, and exchange a few words with the manager.
But as one of the reporters who covered Torre, I always thought that he mostly just wanted to see their faces, the way a parent does when they greet their kids coming through the door at the end of school, to assess their expression, their mood, their body language.
I never thought Torre was especially adept at game strategy -- he tended to burn through relievers, for example, the way a kid exhausts a bag of Halloween candy -- and nothing in his history suggests he had a gift for developing young players. But he was a great manager -- a Hall of Fame manager, as he was told today, along with Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox -- because he had a natural affection for his players, and they felt and understood that.
It's a simple trait that can be exceedingly important, and it was for that group of players during the Yankees' dynasty of 1996-2001.