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Joe Torre’s Number Retired In Monument Park

In Yankee lore, the number six has been worn by a prominent group of players. The list encompasses the likes of Roy White, Clete Boyer, Bobby Brown, Andy Carey, Joe Gordon, Tony Lazzeri and even for a short time, Mickey Mantle. Wearing it last as a player was Tony Fernandez, in 1995. Donning the number last for eternity will be Joe Torre.

From 1996 to 2007, Torre and the New York Yankees were an astounding 12-for-12 in reaching the postseason. It was an era which included four World Series crowns, six American League pennants and ten American League Eastern Division titles. Given the state of the current club, the retirement of Torre’s number six, will give fans a chance to reflect and really appreciate how special that time was.

Joe Torre and coaches.

In fact, one could argue that given the playoff format of the Wild Card era, that those Yankees teams were the most impressive of all. Yes there were Yankee teams of yore which won more consecutive titles and had more Hall of Fame players but the Torre era was remarkable for a multitude of reasons.

Factor in free agency, the MLB draft and multiple playoff rounds and you’re left even more in awe of how they kept it together. Speaking of keeping it together, Torre was skilled as acting as a buffer between George Steinbrenner and the players. All the players had to worry about was going out and playing hard and continue focusing on baseball. This also allowed the core of young players time to develop and blossom in the Bronx. Those Yankees were as Torre would say, “Intense without being tense.”

Just how impressive were those Yankees clubs? The 1998-2000 squads are still the most recent and only to not only repeat but three-peat in this era. From 1996 to 2000, they won 14-straight World Series contests. Furthermore, the club won eleven consecutive playoff series’ from 1998 to 2001. Go back to 1996 and that’s 14 out of 15.

One would have to go back to 1927 through 1941 to find a “streak” of near equivalent stature. During that span, the Yankees won eight World Series’ without a loss, mind you they weren’t consecutive. From 1936 to 1943, the Yanks won six crowns in eight years. Then from 1947 to 1953, they won titles in six out of seven seasons.

Yes the World Series is the pinnacle and the 1949-53 teams set the standard but so much can happen in a short playoff series and multiple layers of rounds to navigate through. These days a team has to play 162 games, set their playoff rotation and prepare match-ups for a litany of different postseason opponents. Making the Torre Yankees something we may not see for quite some time, if ever again.

Even the regular season, which a lot of Yanks fans tend to discount, was rather historic in scope. Most obvious of all, the 1998 squad set the standard with a then regular season record 114 wins, which jumped to 125 after the club blew through the postseason. Adding to the regular season accolades, the 2002-04 Yankees were the only teams in franchise history to win 100 games in three consecutive seasons. Of those teams, only the 2003 team even made the World Series, which further illustrates just how difficult and remarkable the run of the 1998-2000 teams truly was.

Sure there were some blips, most notably the 2004 ALCS and not being able to make it out of the ALDS from 2005-07 with a robust lineup, albeit with a flawed pitching staff.

Yet Torre was able to hold it all together and make the right moves. The coaching staff remained consistent with Don Zimmer, Willie Randolph, Mel Stottlemyre, Chris Chambliss, Jose Cardenal and Tony Cloninger. Then kids like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte (until 2004) were kept around. Plus Torre didn’t worry about alienating vets like Tino Martinez and Wade Boggs in the 1996 World Series, switching it up with Cecil Fielder and Charlie Hayes, who came up with big hits. Playing a hunch with starting Ricky Ledee in the 1998 World Series, to see him hit .600.

In total, Joe Torre went 1,173-767 as the Yanks skipper, winning AL Manager of the Year in 1996 and 1998.

Once referred to as “clueless,” now it isn’t too difficult to understand why Joe Torre’s number six is being retired in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.