The New York Yankees will retire the jersey of their former manager, Joe Torre, in a ceremony on August 23 at Yankee Stadium. Torre, currently the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations for MLB, led the Yankees to World Series victories in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. He will also be inducted in the baseball Hall of Fame this July.
After taking over for Buck Showalter in 1996, Torre took the Yankees to their first World Series appearance since 1981, and first championship since 1978. Yankee fans took quickly to Torre, a New York native, thanks to his success and his professionalism. He continued to lead the team on one of the best runs in their history. While he was always blessed with top level talent, Torre’s ability to keep the peace among high-level personalities cannot be overstated.
Before becoming manager, Joe Torre was a an all-star catcher, first, and third baseman, and a league MVP who enjoyed a 17 year run in the big leagues. His career took him from Milwaukee to Atlanta with the Braves, to St. Louis, then finally back home to New York where he briefly served as player/manager for the Mets before retiring to focus on managing. He would go on to manage the Braves and Cardinals before taking over in New York as the Yankees’ skipper. He had the longest tenure of any Yankee manager under the notoriously hotheaded and finicky George Steinbrenner.
Torre’s Yankee career came to an end when he and the team could not agree to terms on a new contract following the 2007 season. Steinbrenner, not pleased with the Yankees lack of postseason success in the previous several seasons, offered Torre an incentive-laden deal that would have kept Torre the highest paid manager in baseball, but still represented a pay cut. Torre, clearly disrespected, balked. Aside from the championships he helped guide New York to, Torre took the team to the playoffs in every season he was there, and the team would miss the postseason in his first year gone.
Torre is as well-spoken of by his own players as by opponents. His best attributes were never in his strategy or on the field management, but in his ability to deal with personalities and cultivate a team and family atmosphere in the Yankees’ clubhouse. Of particular notion is the relationship Torre had with Derek Jeter, who was a rookie in Torre’s first season with New York.
When Jeter eventually has his number retired, his number 2 next to Torre’s 6 perhaps as soon as next season, the Yankees will be completely out of single digits. That the Yankees are willing to place Torre’s number right alongside the numbers of some of the all time great ballplayers like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig shows just how much respect Torre has garnered around the league, particularly at his most successful stop. Joe Torre will be the 17th Yankee to have their number retired, plus the number 42 of Jackie Robinson which has been retired by all teams. Torre was an invaluable member of the Yankee franchise, and has more than earned the honor of his forthcoming ceremony.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering New York Baseball