There is no bigger compliment a person can receive than the one Joe Torre paid Tony Carullo on Friday.
“You could trust him with your life,” Torre said of Carullo, who retired Thursday as the Mets’ visiting clubhouse manager after 51 years working for the team. “That to me is hugely important.”
Unable to be together for a normal retirement ceremony, it was held via Zoom and more than 60 friends and members of the front office said goodbye. Among those joining Torre on the call were Jeff Wilpon, Luis Rojas, David Wright, Todd Frazier, longtime Braves clubhouse manager John Holland and Lou Cucuzza — who heads the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.
“He has been around forever. I see him every year. He has the biggest heart I have ever been around. He cares very deeply about what he does and how he does it,” said Torre, who had served as MLB’s chief baseball officer since 2011 before becoming a special assistant to the commissioner in February. “He is a great personality.”
Carullo, a Queens native who grew up in Astoria, was a Mater Christi High School student when he was hired as a bat boy in 1969. At 21, he took over the visiting clubhouse position in 1976.
“Tony is a Mets icon. He is beloved by every member of our organization. I never have heard anyone say a bad word about him,” Wilpon said in a statement. “Fifty-one years of dedicated service is just amazing. Retirement aside, Tony Carullo will be a Met for life.”
A 1977 graduate of Baruch College, Carullo is thankful for the support Wilpon provided.
“Jeff always looked out for me,” said Carullo, who will fill retirement’s idle hours by fishing, golfing, traveling and attending the Metropolitan Opera. “We can talk about wine for hours.”
And he expects there will be a big void.
“Over the years I have met so many good people. That will be the hardest part. I am not talking about the players. The players are there for three days and they are gone,” Carullo said. “The traveling secretaries, the clubhouse guys, those are the guys I am going to miss the most. I am going to miss Joe coming to my office and talking about wines and talking about cigars. That is going to be the hard part, not having friends around. If you are good to people they are good back to you.”
Carullo’s office was his, but to others it was theirs.
“You would sit in his office and it is open to you, it’s your office,” said Torre, who met Carullo in 1969 when he was playing for the Cardinals and of course got to know him as the Mets manager and later as a visiting manager with the Braves, Cardinals, Yankees and Dodgers. “On those days you come in and lose a tough ballgame, he is a sense of friendship and that really helped.”
Carullo, who will be replaced by Dave Berni, the Mets’ home clubhouse assistant, knows exactly how he lasted so long.
“Keep my mouth shut and do my job and you can stick around for 51 years,” Carullo said.
And that was long enough.
“It’s bittersweet but it was time to hand the reins over to a younger guy,” the 66-year-old Carullo said, “I had a great run and I am thankful for all the friends I met. It’s been real fun and I am going to miss it. I am going to miss it a lot but it was time.”