Putting on the No. 6 pinstripes again Sunday brought back nothing but good memories for Joe Torre. He's been in the new Yankee Stadium often this year, in his new role as baseball's vice president of operations, but Old-Timers' Day was his first chance to wear the uniform he managed in for a dozen seasons and bask in the adoration from the fans.
"Taking it off was quite emotional back in '07, knowing at the time I wasn't going to be able to do this anymore," Torre said before Sunday's Old-Timers' Day festivities. "I just don't like to dwell on stuff. I certainly did feel differently when I put it on today, knowing I hadn't done it in a long time. It's obviously the uniform that has meant the most in my career."
Torre's split from the Yankees after the 2007 season was ugly, and it once seemed as though he might not accept an invitation to return for Old-Timers' Day. But after coming back in September for the tribute to George Steinbrenner, then retiring from managing the Dodgers after last season, he said it was easy to accept the invite this time.
"I knew this day was going to happen at some point," he said. "The fact that I retired from the managing, all of a sudden I'm available. I really have been looking forward to this, because nobody does these things like the Yankees. It's special, because the Yankees have such a deep, rich history. Just some of the stories, some of the memories -- it sounds corny, but it's great. It's still important."
And Torre, as demonstrated by the loud, long ovation he got when introduced -- perhaps not the loudest ovation for any of the Old-Timers, but it lasted more than a minute -- still is important. His relationships with his former players who remain active here has been burnished by his MLB job, keeping him around the clubhouses.
"For me, it doesn't change [having him here today]," Jorge Posada said. "I feel the same way about him. I see him as a father figure to me. It's always special. I think it's going to be pretty special for the fans to see him in the uniform again, but my feelings haven't changed at all, even when he was with the Dodgers."
"Without those two guys -- and I don't want to not pay attention to the other guys I had all those years -- this ballpark certainly wouldn't have been built, with the contributions these two guys have made over the years," he said. "I wouldn't be sitting here wearing a World Series ring, and I certainly wouldn't have been in pinstripes for 12 years, if it wasn't for them."
Torre ran into Jack McKeon and Davey Johnson at the amateur draft earlier this month, and now both of those senior citizens are back managing. But Torre, who turns 71 next month, said his managing days are over.
"A couple months ago," he said, "my wife and I were shopping one day, it was a Saturday afternoon and she says to me, 'Here we are, shopping on a Saturday afternoon during the season, and you're not stressed out.'
"My job is busy, there's a lot going on, but there is no stress. That's nice."