MILWAUKEE - The first significant thaw in an icy relationship between the Yankees and Joe Torre took place in September 2010 when he attended the dedication of George Steinbrenner's plaque in Monument Park.
Thursday's announcement that the Yankees will retire Torre's number and give him his own plaque in Monument Park this summer is a sign that the wounds created by his messy departure after the 2007 season have mostly healed.
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"I am incredibly humbled that my number will be retired by the Yankees,'' Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, said in a statement from Milwaukee (where, coincidentally, his former team will start a three-game series Friday night). "The Hall of Fame became possible for me because of what our players accomplished in 12 memorable years representing this historic franchise together. I hope that number 6 will stand for everything that our players achieved.''
Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill, two players who helped Torre win those championships, also will be honored this summer with plaques in Monument Park and a third, Bernie Williams, will be honored in some capacity in 2015, the club announced. Hall of Fame reliever Rich Gossage also will get his due in Monument Park this summer.
"Knowing and appreciating the tradition of the New York Yankees, I thank the entire Steinbrenner family and their organization for this great honor,'' said Torre, scheduled to be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame July 27. "I also congratulate Goose Gossage, Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez on their well-deserved honors in Monument Park, and I look forward to celebrating the career of Bernie Williams next year.''
O'Neill, currently an analyst on the YES Network, almost immediately took to Twitter to post his reaction. "So honored to be receiving a plaque in monument park,'' O'Neill tweeted. "It's been a privilege to be part of the best organization for over twenty years!''
Martinez's ceremony is scheduled for June 21 as part of Old-Timers' Day weekend and Gossage will be honored the next day. O'Neill's ceremony is slated for Aug. 9.
Torre's day will come Aug. 23 when his number joins those of Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), Mickey Mantle (7), Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey (8), Roger Maris (9), Phil Rizzuto (10), Thurman Munson (15), Whitey Ford (16), Don Mattingly (23), Elston Howard (32), Casey Stengel (37), Mariano Rivera (42), Reggie Jackson (44) and Ron Guidry (49).
Torre went 1,173-767 (.605) in 12 seasons managing the Yankees, leading the club to six World Series and four championships. He led the team to the playoffs each season, but after a 2007 loss to the Indians in the ALDS Torre received what he considered an insulting one-year offer to continue managing the club. He declined and managed the Dodgers from 2008-10.
Torre's relationship with the Yankees, and general manager Brian Cashman in particular, was further strained in February 2009 with the release of his book "The Yankee Years,'' but Steinbrenner's death in July 2010 served as a catalyst for a reconciliation.
"I think it was both parties not knowing how to say goodbye,'' Torre said Sept. 20, 2010, at The Boss' plaque dedication.
"Whatever happened on that side was a small sample,'' Cashman said that night, "compared to the huge sample of all the good that took place.''