NEW YORK – You don’t have to be a baseball fan to know that August 23 was a special day in the world of sports. The number 6 worn by former New York Yankee manager Joseph Paul Torre will never be worn by another member of New York’s American League baseball team.
The day brought smiles and some tears – not only to Yankee fans – at the game between the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox and sports fans across the country.
The ceremony in the Bronx signified two things: the end of an era – the last of the core of great Yankees managed by Torre, Derek Jeter, retires this year – and a refutation of the phrase “nice guys finish last,” often miss-attributed to another successful but more volatile baseball manager, the late Leo Durocher.
The team America loves to hate but which produces stars that also evoke universal reverence also unveiled a plaque that will be placed in the Monument Park section of the Cathedral of Baseball. The bronze award honors the manager whose Yankee teams appeared in the post season in each of his 12 Yankee seasons, winning six AL pennants and four worlds championships. Torre was 1,173-767-2 in the regular season and 76-47 in the postseason.
Indeed, Torre finished last or close to the bottom of the heap numerous times during his tenure as manager of the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, but as Tyler Kepner noted in the New York Times, “the intersection of personal and professional factors,” made him the right man at the right time to earn glory in the Bronx, signified by four world championships and 12 consecutive post-season appearances.
TNH was at Yankees Stadium, reporting on the tribute to a man whose qualities might have inspired Homer to sing his praises had he led men on a Trojan battlefield rather than a baseball diamond.
Torre warmed the hearts of 47, 594 fans who filled the great Bronx ballyard with a moving speech that sang the praises his home town of New York, his players and coaches, and the Steinbrenner family, especially the late “Boss”, George M. Steinbrenner, famous for rebuilding the great franchise which had fallen on hard times, and for giving Torre the opportunity to manage his team.
The boy from Brooklyn of humble origins reached high for words to describe the experience of presiding over the latest Yankee dynasty. Reminiscent of the the words of great astronauts and astronomers, Torre saying that while It’s a short walk from old Yankee Stadium to the new stadium, “It’s a long, long journey from the field to Monument Park. However, I was blessed to make that journey on the shoulders of some very special players.”
Derek Jeter’s number 2 as the only single digit number still being worn on Yankees pinstripes, and that too will soon come to pass.
The 40-year old Jeter, one of the oldest men to ever play the demanding position of shortstop, appear in the game on August 23, a scheduled day of rest, but he escorted Soot Zimmer, the wife of Torre’s dear friend and colleague, the late Don Zimmer, onto the field to present Torre with a proclamation from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio naming Saturday Joe Torre Day.
“Torre, now an executive vice president for Major League Baseball, is the fourth member of the Yankees teams that won four World Series titles from 1996-2000 to be honored in Monument Park. Mariano Rivera was celebrated last season and Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill were give plaques earlier this summer. Bernie Williams will be recognized next year,” the Associated Press reported.
There was also a ball game to delight the crowd which featured an excellent performance by winning pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, a home run by Carlos Beltran which was very welcome during a season when the team has not lived up to its “Bronx Bombers” nickname, and other signs of offensive life – the visiting White Sox turned in some spectacular defensive plays – that are vital to the Yankees’ efforts to send their Captain into the post season one last time, which would be a nice footnote – not an asterisk – to the career of the manager and mentor he always called “Mr. Torre.”
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