Billy Martin, Joe Torre, and the desert

Years ago, while wandering Joshua Tree National Park, I came across a curious natural formation. A lifelong Yankee fan, I quickly determined that these were rocks in the shape of Billy Martin, and I wrote this piece about said rocks. The rocks are a marker for me, indicating the deep connection between baseball and the desert - the infinite sandlot. Years later, I mentioned the rocks in the
New York Times travel section, and a fact checker called and asked me where they were. "A couple of dunes over from Sandy Koufax Wash," I said, or something like that, and it was enough to convince her that a) they actually existed, and b) if a New York Times reader happened to get lost while searching for the rocks in the shape of Billy Martin, they would have another landmark and therefore could find their way back to a water faucet and not sue the Times.

I mention the rocks because Joe Torre may be coming to LA to manage the Dodgers, further deepening the Yankee connection with our region. Observers say that Torre would bring sparkle to the local team, following in the path of Tommy Lasorda. But Torre's gift would go far beyond glamour. With his ever-beleaguered look, he carries vast reservoirs of suffering and endurance. Sometimes he smiles, and that makes his regular demeanor all the more wrenching. Yet in the past few days, there appears to be a change. He looks different, but I'm not sure exactly how. Is he happy? I want to say that but can Joe Torre ever be really happy? I guess he looks hopeful, and, yes, I think I detect a slight spring in his step, now that Steinbrenner is out of his life and he may be on his way to Los Angeles, where you can hit a ball out of the stadium and all the way to the Mojave.* This is not to say that he no longer bears the weight of the world inside him. For that is who he is, and the Dodgers - like LA itself, a team steeped in history but unable to give it its due** - will be the better for it.

* Apologies to Vin Scully fans, but it's time to channel Phil Rizzuto: "Holy cow, that thing is headed for Barstow!"

**One of the first stats on the official stadium history page is the number of available parking spaces. That's history? Can't Dodger copywriters do better than that?


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