A-Rod irritated the other players because he was so high-maintenance. He required his personal assistant to position his toothbrush on a certain part of the sink, specifically the edge near the right-hand cold water tap, leaning with bristles up over the basin. The first time he ordered me to do this, I couldn’t believe my ears when he said, “And put some toothpaste on it.”
Probably the strangest thing we had to do for A-Rod was lay his clothes out on the table so he could get dressed. You had to lay out these items in a predetermined order: socks at the head of the table, followed by undershorts, undershirt, shirt, pants, and then shoes. I had to carry his clothes from his locker to the trainer’s room, where he liked to get dressed away from the prying eyes of the media.
A-Rod was different in another, childish way that made players laugh behind his back. When you watch games at home you sometimes see players come into the dugout after they hit a home run. If you’ve ever wondered what they’re saying, it’s usually things like “Way to go!” or “Good job!” Not A-Rod. After he hits a home run, he comes into the dugout and brags about it. Usually he’s speaking Spanish to one of the other Latino players, and if he hit a home run he wouldn’t shut up. “Wow, did you see I hit a home run?” he’d say. “That pitcher threw me a ball right over the plate and I smashed it over the fence. Did you ever see anything like that before?”
Even during the rockiest and most difficult years of his being manager, Joe Torre was usually focused and kept his nose to the grindstone. There was only one thing that distracted him from work, however, and it wasn’t women — it was horses.
I found out about this quirk of his during a late-season game. Torre called me over in the dugout, and from the dark look on his face I thought it was something serious. He waited until I was close and then lowered his voice. “Go down to my office,” he said. “I want you to check the score on the Off-Track Betting channel and see who won.” I was stunned. It was during a game! I had never before been asked to leave my post.
“Make sure you find out the exact track and horse,” he added.
I ran down into the clubhouse and found the attendant, Joe Lee.
“Joe, Mr. T just asked me to find out something about which horses won,” I said. “What’s he talking about?”
Lee was chewing gum and looked unimpressed about the whole thing. “Yeah,” he said. “Don’t you know why he’s got that TV in his office? It’s usually just tuned to one channel.”
“What’s that, the YES Network?”
“No, the OTB station.”
Lee led me into Torre’s office and showed me how to decipher the race results. I jogged up to the dugout and gave them to Torre, who grabbed the paper and studied it like his life depended on it. When he had discovered the information he wanted, he turned to Don Zimmer and showed it to him. The older man’s eyes lit up, and before I left they were talking excitedly not about the next batter but the OTB results!
If that’s the worst stuff in the book, it’s pretty mild. However, it will be interesting to see if Bud has any comment on the Torre part.