Torre's gala continues work against domestic violence
MLB executive's Safe at Home foundation honors Cone at annual event
By Mark Newman
NEW YORK -- There is an important anniversary coming up for Joe Torre, one that a lot of people will be talking about in 2016, at least around these parts.
That's why Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations needed to honor David Cone in a hurry at Thursday's 13th annual Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation Gala at Cipriani, a fundraiser to lead the charge against domestic violence.
"I'm glad we can finally honor him, because next year it goes back to 20 years for the '96 team," Torre said. "I wanted to get this done before we got to that milestone."
There will be all kinds of reminiscing in coming months about that '96 club, Torre's first as the Yankees' manager and the start of Major League Baseball's last true dynasty. In fact, that run of titles in '96 and 1998-2000 is even more magnified now, because the Royals just gave MLB the all-time record of 15 consecutive champions without a repeat.
Cone pitched on all four of those title teams, giving him a whole handful of rings, after having won with Toronto in 1992. The six-time All-Star joined his former manager and Torre's wife Ali at the event along with a stellar lineup of sports and entertainment figures, including Commissioner Rob Manfred, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez, David Wells, John Franco, managers Don Mattingly of the Marlins and Terry Collins of the Mets, Hall of Famer Tony La Russa and emcee, actress Lorraine Bracco.
"I want to be just like him," Cone said of Torre. "He's really been ahead of the curve on this issue. As you know, domestic violence is in the news a lot nowadays, for all the wrong reasons. ... He was one of the first ones to kind of spearhead this cause. He hasn't let up any steam after all of these years. A lot of kids have benefited from this remarkable work."
The Safe at Home Foundation was created in 2002 by Joe and Ali in response to the impact that domestic violence and fear had on him as a boy with a father who abused his mother. Safe at Home reaches children who witness violence in their homes, schools and communities, and they are taught that they are not alone.
The event will support the foundation's programming initiative, Margaret's Place, named in honor of Joe's mother. There are currently 13 Margaret's Places in New York and Los Angeles, serving more than 50,000 students through individual and group counseling, school-wide campaigns, peer leadership and educational opportunities.
"People never wanted to talk about [domestic violence] or deal with it, because they didn't know what to do about it," Torre said. "What happened about a year ago in football, and just recently here in baseball, I think we're forcing people to pay attention to it, and realize that I think we're all responsible for helping people do the right thing. As soon as you hear about somebody abusing somebody, you're thinking about discipline, but I think in addition to whatever accountability has to be shared, is the fact that we have to educate people.
"We have to have people understand the 'respect' word."
Coincidentally, the Commissioner told reporters that an investigation into Jose Reyes' recent arrest on domestic violence charges is in a preliminary stage and that it is "too early to predict exactly how the investigation goes."
In the meantime, Manfred said, Torre's leadership on this front continues to set a bar not just in sports, but in all walks.
"Obviously the issue with domestic violence has been a huge issue in sports, and Joe and Ali's work has been a great asset to baseball, in terms of our developing our approach to the issue," Manfred said. "On this issue, Joe has been a leader across the board -- not only in the baseball world, but in the world generally. People forget he served on a presidential commission. Just an unbelievable leader in terms of educating people and making people understand the issues associated with this topic."
The fact that Jeter braved this particular red carpet -- facing the expected barrage of wedding questions and deflecting every attempt -- further demonstrated the importance of this cause.
"Let's talk about Joe Torre's Safe at Home Foundation, how about that?" Jeter said.
"I don't have a choice. He's like a father. If he asks me to do something, I pretty much have to do it. No, you believe in what he's doing, him and his wife. I've been here almost every year, a couple years I missed it, but I've enjoyed coming out here to support him."
Jeter said of Thursday's honoree: "Coney was one of the guys I looked up to growing up. When I first came up, I tried to learn as much as I could from guys. I learned a lot from watching him. The way Coney dealt with playing in New York, dealt with the media, and how responsible and accountable he was, I definitely took some of his qualities and tried to learn as much as I could from him."
Mattingly, Torre's former player and hitting coach, was not only here to be part of this fundraiser, but he also will be presenting Torre with a special award recognizing the Safe at Home Foundation at Friday night's Rawlings Gold Glove Ceremony at The Plaza.
"I'm definitely not nearly as informed as a lot of people are," Mattingly said, "But it seems like the courage to come out and speak about [domestic violence] is probably the problem, in general. Nobody wants to speak about it, it's always hidden, it's behind closed doors. When a person like Joe comes out and speaks about it, it brings it out front, it opens so many people's eyes to, 'Hey, there are places to go. There are people to talk to.' We need to talk about this."
Mattingly succeeded Torre as Dodgers manager in 2011, leading them to the postseason the past three years, but mutually agreeing to part ways with the club after being unable to get past the National League Division Series last month. He was promptly signed as the Marlins' manager.
"I'm extremely excited to have the opportunity to go down to Miami with a young talented club," Mattingly said. "I'm going to do something that's definitely going to be a challenge for me, which a group of guys that have a strong core there, and having a chance to do something special, hopefully. I look back at LA, it was just a special time for me. It was a great place for the years that I was there, and a great place to be now, honestly. They're in great hands. Hopefully we can get Miami headed in that direction."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.