Monday, October 15, 2007

Torre's Fate To Be Decided On Special "Dancing With the Stars"

"Give the people a voice," ABC says in announcing arrangement

Honolulu, HI (Oct. 15) - Eager to end the posturing and speculation over the job fate of New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, ABC-TV executives gathered for an emergency weekend retreat in Hawaii and emerged with a solution.

"Joe Torre, we're happy to announce, has agreed to participate in a special three-week run of 'Dancing With the Stars,'" ABC spokesman Ted Halverson said in an impromptu news conference in a Honolulu Tiki bar.

The hastily-called media gathering, attended by several cocktail waitresses, a bartender, two bus boys and three reporters, was also put on the network's web site and on YouTube.

Halverson said that Torre, 67, was contacted shortly after the Yankees' Game 4, series-deciding loss in the American League Divisional Series.

"It took a little convincing, but he came around," Halverson said of the Yankees manager, whose job seems to be in jeopardy following yet another early playoff exit.

The harder part, according to Halverson, was to get team owner George Steinbrenner to play ball, so to speak.

"Ultimately, we had to assure 'The Boss' that the decision on the show will be final, and that nothing can change it -- not even him," Halverson said. To do that, Halverson said that ABC promised Steinbrenner "a whole lot of dough," and free advertisement for Yankees season tickets during the show's broadcasts that include Torre.

The way it will work, ABC says, is that Torre will be paired with a "really good dancer" and will have two weeks to train. Then, it's off to Hollywood for three weeks worth of shows -- nine altogether -- at which time the American people will get a chance to decide whether Torre should keep his job, through dance. Self-proclaimed voice of baseball's conscience, broadcaster Bob Costas, will serve as one of the judges.

"Basically, if after the nine shows, the scores are high enough and America likes what it sees, Joe Torre will continue to manage the Yankees, at least in 2008," Torre's representative, Harvey Kaplan, said in a neighboring Tiki bar from the ABC press conference. Toasting his boss with a Singapore Sling, Kaplan said, "Here's to Joe Torre's feet and agility."

Torre couldn't be reached for comment, but Kaplan said the manager would have "something to say" about the dancing challenge "at a later time." When pressed for when that might be, Kaplan simply smiled and pretended not to hear, taking his drink and joining a young lady at a nearby table.

"Dancing With the Stars" has become a sensation for ABC, pulling in great ratings and becoming a sort of "American Idol" without the rancor of Simon Cowell. Halverson said the show's popularity made it a natural barometer for Torre's chances.

"More people watch 'Stars' than watch the Yankees anymore," Halverson said. "Plus, this is a great way to keep the Yankees in the public's consciousness, which is mandated by God, you know. And He's pretty high up there."

Steinbrenner had issued a statement during the Yankees' season-ending series loss to Cleveland that said the team would have to beat the Indians for Torre to keep his job. According to reports, Steinbrenner was ready to carry out his threat before ABC stepped in and offered an option that would include no "backsies-outies," insiders said.

"The vote of the American people on this special 'Dancing With the Stars' will stand. Period," Halverson said, signaling the end of the presser by asking where he'd placed his Chocolate Choo-Choo cocktail.

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