It is not known who really had the final say in creating last night's ceremony. Yankee Stadium celebrated greatness, championships, and its rich history while playing "New York, New York" over and over again. For the most part it was an amazing night to be a Yankees fan. That regular season game had the feel of a World Series clinching game from the late '90s.
One thing is for sure: Whoever decided to exclude Joe Torre did all of the Yankees fans an incredible disservice! Joe Torre deserved to be honored along with McCarthy, Stengel, Huggins, and Billy Martin. Torre is one of the greatest managers ever and a class act as well.
Joe Torre is a Yankee great along with Mantle, Ruth, DiMaggio, Berra, and Jackson. Torre even got voted second in a 2001 poll asking which sports figure could best lead the country. As jealous as he was, Steinbrenner and his arrogant son Hank will never be as loved and respected as Torre.
They simply have too much baggage. Hank is already blowing hot air trying to fill his father's shoes and failing miserably at it! George is more of a sentimental figure now that there is so much mystery clouding his health and his role with the team. But, Hank Steinbrenner is only increasing Torre's popularity.
Torre restored pride and dignity to the Yankees. He inherited a great team from Buck Showalter, but then got the Yankees over the "hump" in his first season. Torre served as the greatest buffer between the pressure of New York and George Steinbrenner. Players generally revered him for the way he treated them. (Except for Gary Sheffield who is the most miserable ballplayer alive!)
Yes, Torre had the best teams with the highest payroll, but he also knew how to manage egos and emotions from players that were perennial All-Stars. In case you forgot, he handled Cecil Fielder and Tino Martinez in the 1996 World Series and he handled a lineup of Jose Canseco, Glenallen Hill, and Cecil Fielder again in the 2000 season.
It was Torre's steady hand that took the pressure off of the players after they lost the first two games of the 1996 World Series in New York. They were beaten badly the first game and shutout in the second. Everyone thought they would be swept by the defending champs, but Torre believed in his men and the Yankees won four straight games. LaRussa or Showalter wouldn't have been able to do that!
It was Torre's ongoing demeanor that helped the Yankees dominate the 1998 season. They played with pride, focus, and ruthless determination in their romp through the regular season that year, accumulating 125 wins including the playoffs.
It was during the end of the year that the team seemed to get bored with the high standard of excellence they set and Torre snapped the team back into focus at the start of the playoffs. They only lost two games in the 1998 playoffs.
It was Torre's calm attitude the next season that helped the Yankees get out of their early season rut after he returned from prostate cancer onto another World Championship. They only lost one playoff game that year.
In 2000, when Roger Clemens did the unthinkable and managed to almost get himself ejected out of a World Series game it was Torre who defended his player to the media after Game Two of the 2000 World Series that night.
It was Torre that defended Strawberry from critics as long as he could. It was Torre who would cancel batting practice when he thought Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez were grinding themselves down with too much practice.
It was Torre that fought to keep Andy Pettitte on the Yankees when he was struggling and Steinbrenner wanted him traded.
Torre was the manager of a dynasty that won 14 straight World Series games. It was Torre who helped guide his team to six pennants. He was there through thick and thin. After he was neutered following the 2006 season it was Torre that managed to keep the pressure off of his team when he was almost suffocated from that pressure.
Torre was such a class act that he had the Yankees cheer the Red Sox, their rival, when they were presented with their 2004 World Series rings in the 2005 home opener in Boston.
I know his handling of the bullpen was questionable, especially at the end of his tenure. But he was expected to win every game and he managed his team that way. I also know that Torre seemed to leave Chad Curtis in the wind after the 1999 World Series for what he did to Jim Grey. But overall, no one could have done the job that Torre did!
For the Yankees not to honor Torre is classless and a shame. How fitting that Torre will most likely be in the playoffs and Hank Steinbrenner gets to watch the playoffs at home!
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