Torre: Book didn't violate conduct code

Updated: February 3, 2009, 9:22 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- A veteran of baseball's biggest stage, Joe Torre had his lines well rehearsed.

No, he didn't write anything controversial.

No, he didn't trash the clubhouse code.

No, no regrets.

On a snowy day in Manhattan, Torre was back in town Tuesday for his first signing session for "The Yankee Years," co-written by Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci. Fans stood in line on Fifth Avenue, and the queue snaked around the corner halfway to Madison Avenue as people waited to meet the man who still refers to the Yankees as "we."

"I don't think I violated anything. At least, that was my intention," said Torre, whose job as former Yankees manager overshadows his occupation as the current Los Angeles Dodgers manager. "I'd like to believe that's what I'm about, to be as honest as I can be."

Torre gets to have it both ways. He wrote a controversial book, helping the publisher recoup the advance, then said he didn't say anything he hadn't previously said.

"There's no question bitter things happen, but when I left it was more a sense of relief," Torre said.

He did two sessions with reporters before the signing: print and radio first, then television. He did an interview with NPR and another with Bob Costas that will air Thursday on the MLB Network. ESPN is scheduled for Wednesday.

His quotes were smoothly similar. His most striking line came when referring to fans at Dodger Stadium.

"Never once did I say, 'You're the best in the world,' because the Yankee fans, there are no fans like the Yankee fans. They are unbelievable," Torre said. "Yeah, they're passionate in Los Angeles, and they grew over the course of the year. But the experience I had at Yankee Stadium with the fans, they'll never be able to duplicate that."

Torre made light of the fact that some in the Yankees clubhouse have referred to Alex Rodriguez as "A-Fraud."

Torre said Larry Bowa, one of his coaches, used to invoke A-Fraud when hitting grounders after the third baseman had a bad night in the field.

"He says, 'Come on, let's see who we see today? Is it going to be A-Rod or A-Fraud? Let's go,'" Torre recalled. "I mean, it was in front of him. You never did any of that stuff behind his back."

Trouble is, sensitivity to jokes increases with each additional dollar in salary in the Pinstriped Paradiso, where outsized paychecks trigger outsized egos, outsized expectations and outsized ticket prices at an outsized new ballpark.

When questions were cut off, Torre made a point of clarifying his relationship with GM Brian Cashman.

"Brian was supportive of me," he said. "We disagreed on a number of instances, a number of things, but, you know, Brian, we got along. ... Last few years I thought it changed somewhat, but I -- overall I thought Brian and I got along."

Everywhere, the talk was Torre.

"I think a lot of these issues are things that have gone on in the past," Derek Jeter said in a telephone interview from Orlando, where he was promoting a new Gillette razor and participating in the Champions of Gaming video tournament.

"He [Rodriguez] has got support from everyone in the clubhouse. He's a great player," Jeter added. "He's a part of our team so everyone supports him. In terms of talking about the same things year in year out, it gets kind of old."

At the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., catcher Jorge Posada said he planned to buy the book.

"It will take me about three years to read it," he joked.

Speaking at Ed Randall's Bat for the Cure prostate cancer charity event in Pleasantville, Cashman wouldn't discuss the book and said he hadn't spoken with Torre since a telephone call on Jan. 25, when news of its contents began to get out.

"Let's change the subject about Torre," Cashman said.

For veteran Yankees, Torre remains revered.

"He's been a father figure to me. I don't think he can do any wrong," Posada said. "There's nothing that has been on the book that hasn't been written or talked about earlier or before."

At the Thurman Munson awards dinner in New York, Johnny Damon said Torre remained atop the Yankees' heap for him.

"I have no reason to not trust him," said Damon, bashed by the authors for being out of shape two years ago. "Until Joe does something crazy to me, he's fine in my book."

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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