Former Yankees' manager Joe Torre visits Rogers Clemens on the...

Former Yankees' manager Joe Torre visits Rogers Clemens on the mound in 2003. Credit: Getty Images

One question that makes for hot debate hung in the humid air at Yankee Stadium on Sunday as the team celebrated its 66th Old-Timers' Day.

When, if ever, will former ace Roger Clemens be welcomed back now that he has been found not guilty on all six counts of lying to Congress about alleged steroid use?

Manager Joe Girardi appeared to lend support to inviting the dominant righthander, an integral part of the Yankees' World Series triumphs in 1999 and 2000.

"That's something our organization deals with and they determine what the right time is," Girardi said. "And I think as time goes on, they'll make a decision on what the best thing is to do.

"But we've had a lot of players that have gone through difficult times and come back and they've been welcomed back. I can't tell you exactly what is going to happen. But Roger was a great Yankee."

The Mitchell Report alleged that Clemens used anabolic steroids, based largely on extensive interviews with his trainer, Brian McNamee. The winner of seven Cy Young Awards denied that to Congress, which led to his indictment on six felony counts involving perjury, false statements and obstructing Congress. After his first trial ended in a mistrial, he was found not guilty June 18.

Former Yankees manager Joe Torre praised Clemens for the stability he brought to the top of the rotation. Asked if the pitcher should be viewed as a Hall of Famer, he said: "He is to me. I can't make other people look at him that way. I can only tell you the way I look at him."

Torre acknowledged that Clemens' accomplishments will never be taken at face value.

"There is a question mark there," Torre said. "There always will be."

Torre, vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, noted the difficulty the national pastime is having in distancing itself from the steroid era and the inflated offensive statistics produced during a period in which those substances were not banned.

"When somebody hits a long home run, I'm sure there is somebody nudging someone and saying, 'I wonder if he's on something,' " Torre said.

Torre led the Yankees to four world championships, six American League pennants and 10 AL East crowns from 1996-2007. He is an example of someone who needed to mend fences with the organization -- and did -- after rejecting a one-year contract extension that he thought was inappropriate based on his distinguished service.

"I'm very proud to be part of this," Torre said before old-timers such as Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford were introduced. "I'm very proud to have managed the club for 12 years. It's just very special."

At the same time, Torre noted the difficulty of meeting expectations that accompany working for the tradition-rich Yankees.

"The thing that bothered me more than anything," he said, "was the word 'disappointment' if we didn't get to the World Series and win the World Series when we really couldn't get out of the first round.

"I had trouble being disappointed in a bunch of guys who played as hard as they did."

Former outfielder Bernie Williams is another who embraced a return to pinstripes after an awkward ending to a stellar career. After his contract expired at the end of the 2006 season, he rejected an opportunity to vie for a part-time role as a non-roster invitee.

Like Torre, Williams moved on.

"Whatever happened in the last year or six months of my career will never be able to overshadow 16 years of memories," Williams said. "I don't think it even matters anymore."

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