In 1999, Joe Torre was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer at the start of the baseball season. Torre was 58 years old and manager of the New York Yankees at the time. After his diagnosis, Torre and his wife, Ali, educated themselves on the treatment options. Ali was a major source of support for Torre. "I realized how important a mate is when you're going through something like this," he said in an interview with QUEST. They decided together that surgery with Dr. Catalona was the best course of action for treating Torre's cancer.
Torre necessarily took time off from managing the Yankees to recover after his procedure. But on May 18 of that year, Torre returned to the Yankees and led the team to a second-consecutive World Series title.
Today his cancer has been in remission for many years and he strives to remain healthy. "I take care of myself as best as I can. I exercise; I continue to watch my diet. With something like [cancer] you always feel you want to be proactive in some way, and these are areas I could do something about," he said.
Torre realized he could use his public platform to raise awareness for prostate cancer. He has spoken openly about his experience over the years. He said, "Any time I can deliver a message, especially if it's a positive message connected with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, I certainly take the opportunity."
He encourages men to get screened for prostate cancer. He said, "It is one of the few cancers where early detection saves your life. I unfortunately have had friends who were afraid to find out if there was something wrong, and in some cases it cost them their lives. So the only advice I have is don't be frightened of it because early detection and active surveillance can certainly help you lead a normal lifestyle, even though cancer may be part of your life."
He also urges men diagnosed with cancer to learn about the latest developments in the field. "Educate yourself about it and understand that it's not the death sentence that I thought it was," he said. "Unlike other medical issues, this is one where you have to become proactive in which choice you make."
Your Prostate Your Decision
In September, Torre became involved with a prostate cancer education campaign called Your Prostate Your Decision. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness for prostate cancer and the new genomic tests that can help determine a cancer's level of aggressiveness. Each person is different, and each cancer is unique. Genomic testing may help men decide if active surveillance is an appropriate option.
In a video for the campaign, Torre said, "For a man with prostate cancer, a single decision can change his entire life. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I faced a game- changing decision. While I chose surgery, a less aggressive approach called active surveillance might be the best choice for you."
The Your Prostate Your Decision campaign is supported by Genomic Health in partnership with Men's Health Network, Prostate Health Education Network, and ZERO - The End of Prostate Cancer. A video featuring Torre is online at www.yourprostateyourdecision.com.
All the Way to Cooperstown
On July 27, Torre was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in front of a crowd of more than 48,000. The elite Hall of Fame Class of 2014 included Torre and only five other Major League Baseball players or managers. "You dream about it a time or two but you always feel it's beyond your reach. But all of a sudden you become a Yankees manager and have great success. And there you are It's pretty amazing," he said of the induction. In his acceptance speech, Torre said, "This game is a gift, and I am humbled, very humbled, to accept its greatest honor."
Commemorated by the Yankees
August 23 was Joe Torre Day at Yankee Stadium in New York. At a pregame ceremony, the Yankees commemorated Torre's contributions to the franchise by officially retiring Torre's number 6 and erecting a plaque in the stadium's Monument Park. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also declared August 23 as Joe Torre Day in the city of New York.
At the number retirement ceremony, Torre said, "To have your number retired for any team is certainly special. But when you talk about the history and tradition of the New York Yankees, known worldwide, it's a feeling I can't describe."
The dedication on Torre's plaque in Monument Park pays respect to his well-known calm demeanor. It reads, "His calm approach and dignified manner provided the foundation for one of the most successful eras in franchise history."
Torre finished his day at the stadium by throwing the ceremonial first pitch.
Giving Back through Baseball
Noah Wilson is a 6-year-old boy battling bone cancer. He is also a huge Kansas City Royals fan. The week before the World Series, one of Noah's neighbors launched a fundraising campaign to purchase game tickets so Noah could see the Royals play in the championship series.
Torre heard about Noah's campaign and got the MLB involved. Torre invited Noah to be his guest a game in Kansas City. "It was an easy decision to make. We'll try to make that day very special for him," Torre said. Noah attended Game 2 of the series. The funds that had already been raised for Noah were used to bring other children with cancer to this year's World Series.
Joe Torre's Career
Torre was a MLB manager for 29 years and a player for 17 years.
He played as first/third baseman and catcher with the Braves, Cardinals and Mets. He was a nine-time All-Star and the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1971. That year, he batted .363 with 230 hits, 24 home runs and a league-leading 137 RBI. He finished his playing career with 2,342 hits, a .297 batting average, 252 home runs and 1,185 RBI.
In his 12 seasons as manager of the New York Yankees, Torre led the team to the World Series six times and brought home the World Championship four times. He ranks fifth in all time wins as a manager and is one of only five baseball managers to win at least four World Series titles. He also managed the Mets, Braves, Cardinals and the Dodgers.
He is currently Major League Baseball's Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations. He and his wife, Ali, founded the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, dedicated to ending domestic violence. They live in California.
Torre is also an honorary trustee of the URF.