These days, with Hall of Fame debates consisting of a lot of did-he-or-didn't-he steroids talk, it's refreshing to get Hall of Fame news about which none of that debate is needed. That happened today when it was announced that three managers, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, and Bobby Cox have been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by The Veteran's Committee.
Torre is perhaps the most interesting inductee because of the way his career was turned around the instant he joined the Yankees in 1996. Before that, Torre was a very good player from 1960 to 1977 and a very mediocre manager from 1977 to 1995. He won the NL MVP award as a member of the Cardinals in 1971 with an awesome .363/.421/.555 season, but overall Torre's accomplishments as a player were not enough to get him elected.
His managing career didn't seem to be enough, either, at least at first. Torre started his managerial career as a player/manager for the 1977 Mets before transitioning to regular old manager from 1978 to 1981. Despite those teams all being dreadful, Torre was able to follow it up with so-so stints with Atlanta and St. Louis.
Since he had never really won anything as a manager save for one division title with the Braves, Torre's hire by the Yankees in 1996 was met with much skepticism. However, that skepticism quickly turned into elation as Torre led the Yankees to four World Series titles in the next five years while entrenching himself as one of the greatest managers of all time.
La Russa and Cox never had the type of insane run of success that Torre had in the Bronx, but each was very successful in his own right. La Russa took over the White Sox at age 34 in 1979 and was able to win a division title in 1983 before moving on to Oakland where he won three American League pennants in a row from 1988 to 1990, including the 1989 World Series championship.
In 1995, after Torre was ousted in St. Louis, La Russa took over there, winning three division titles from 1996 to 2002 before finally breaking through with a National League pennant win in 2004. La Russa won his second World Series title in 2006 when an otherwise mediocre Cardinals team won its division with just 83 wins before upsetting the Mets for the NL pennant and the Tigers for the World Series crown. La Russa capped off his career with a third World Series win in 2011.
That brings us to Bobby Cox, who actually managed the Braves to zero success from 1978 to 1981 before wisely returning to the club in 1990 when they had much better players. Although that 1990 team wasn't very good at all, the 1991 team famously went from worst to first in the NL West before falling to the Twins in the World Series. That began a string of 14 straight division titles (in two different division, no less) four NL pennants, and one 1995 World Series championship. The remarkable consistency of Cox's teams was one of the hallmarks of baseball in the 1990s and one of the banes of Mets fans for most of his career.