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The Pittsburgh Pirates' Corey Dickerson (12) reaches second base with a double ahead of the tag from Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist in the ninth inning on April 12 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — One of my favorite Joe Torre stories occurred when he was holding out with the Braves during spring training in 1969.

As related in the book "Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball," Braves general manager Paul Richards tried to cut Torre's salary 20 percent, mostly as revenge for Torre being a union activist.

Like many players during that time, Torre had an offseason job and was working for a Wall Street firm. In an attempt to end the holdout, he flew to Florida to meet with Braves management early in spring training, but Richards refused to budge.

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Joe Torre

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Torre then placed his business card on Richards' desk and left the office.

"If you need me, here's where you can reach me," he said.

Two weeks later, the Braves dealt Torre to the Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda.

That's how baseball dealt with players back then — my way or the highway.

Torre found the highway to his liking. He was named National League MVP in 1971, the second of four straight seasons he was an All-Star third baseman with the Cards. After a nice playing career, he went on to be a highly successful manager, winning four World Series rings with the Yankees and being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Instead of retiring or becoming a talking head on MLB Network, Torre went to work for Major League Baseball as its disciplinarian.

His title is chief baseball officer, or as Dusty Baker used to call one of Torre's predecessors, Bob Watson, "Judge Dredd."

The position mainly entails suspending or fining players and managers for being hotheads and going off the rails during a game. It's probably as fun at is sounds, especially if you were a former baseball hothead yourself.

But sometimes something completely ridiculous crosses Torre's desk, such as the recent controversy surrounding MLB's decision not to allow Ben Zobrist to wear black cleats in games. Zobrist received a letter from MLB telling him of the uniform violation and warning him to follow the rules or face the music.

Like many players today, Zobrist opted to protest the move with a social media post Saturday morning explaining his position on the shoes, which he said he wore as a tribute to old-school players such as Ernie Banks and Stan Musial.

Then Zobrist went rogue later in the day, wearing the black shoes as a ninth-inning defensive replacement against the White Sox. He politely declined to discuss the protest with the media afterward, preferring to hear from MLB and the union first.

I asked Joe Maddon about his unlikely outlaw, and the Cubs manager immediately saw as a marketing opportunity.

"Unlikely outlaw, that would be a great poster," he said, adding that Zobrist is a man who stands by his convictions.

On Tuesday, Zobrist told reporters in Atlanta he had sent his message to Torre, so the ball is in MLB's court.

Make no mistake: Zobrist is making this stand for the rights of all players to wear shoes of their preference. I applaud him for the effort, and it's his right to do so, even if there are more pressing issues in baseball, such as the proliferation of bad walk-up music.

Most fans I've spoken with seem to be OK with players showing their individuality through their shoes, as players often do in the NFL and NBA. It's show biz, after all.

Still, Torre has to consider other factors when making his shoe decree. If he allows Zobrist to wear the color of his preference, what is to stop other players from wearing garish-looking shoes that don't match their uniform colors and serve only as a fashion faux pas?

And if players can wear the shoes of their choice, what's next? White belts before Memorial Day or after Labor Day?

I trust Torre to make the right call on what Cubs television analyst Jim Deshaies wisely predicted would become known as the "Zobrist rule."

Torre has more common sense than most at MLB, having already walked in the shoes of players, managers and even media. When prodded about the new mound-visits rule during a spring-training interview, he jokingly told a reporter: "I need help trying to figure it out. Anything you can suggest?"

The suggestion here is to allow black shoes. But whatever he decides, Torre must decide quickly. There's no need to shuffle his feet, because _ as we've already discovered _ this shoe story has legs.

So let's go, Joe.

As they say at the old shoe factory: Just do it.

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