Joe Torre Is Not An Un-Person

I unreservedly like Tim McCarver’s work. I have compared his analysis before the last pitch of the 2001 World Series to Mazeroski’s home run to win the 1960 World Series. For all his stylizing and odd constructions, I’ve found his game analysis, especially his “first guessing,” to be almost universally insightful and correct.
But he’s dead wrong about this Joe Torre stuff. And not just for the unfortunate imagery he used during Saturday’s broadcast from Yankee Stadium at the end of the sad week in which both Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner died. Tim is wrong on the facts.

“You remember some of those despotic leaders in World War II, primarily in Russia and Germany, where they used to take those pictures that they had taken of former generals who were no longer alive, they had shot ’em. They would airbrush the pictures, and airbrushed the generals out of the pictures. In a sense, that’s what the Yankees have done with Joe Torre. They have airbrushed his legacy. I mean, there’s no sign of Joe Torre at the Stadium. And that’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it.”

McCarver has apologized for the imagery (you hate the Yankees? Fine. The “rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel” is stern enough, we don’t have to bring Hitler and Stalin into this). But he sticks to the contention that the Yankees have “airbrushed” Torre from their history and should have retired his number by now.

Let’s address the number first. Torre has been gone for only two-and-a-half seasons. Nobody else has been assigned his old uniform number 6. In examining the retirements, the Yankees have shelved fifteen numbers representing sixteen players (both Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey wore number 8). Mariano Rivera’s 42 will be automatically retired upon his departure from the Bronx, in keeping with the baseball-wide retirement of the number to honor Jackie Robinson in 1997 (and doubtless Rivera will get his own ceremony since he’s clearly earned it).

Fourteen of the sixteen honorees were, at the time of their uniform retirements, either still working for the Yankees, out of baseball, or deceased. When Casey Stengel’s number 37 was put away for good in 1970, it had been a decade since he had last managed the Yankees and half of one since he had last managed the Mets. He still had a largely ceremonial vice presidency with the Mets and still suited up for short stints during spring training. Berra was managing the Mets when the number he and Dickey was retired in 1972. By then Yogi, too, had been away from the Yankees for a long time – eight years.

There is some logic in delaying, especially for individuals still living. I found what is in retrospect a hilarious blog post from September, 2007, declaring that the Yankees would “surely” be one of three teams to retire the number of a veteran player: Roger Clemens. Yeah, and don’t call me Surely.

Thumbnail image for IMG_0183.jpg Clearly the Yankees are honoring Torre by not handing his old number to anybody else. But has he been under-represented in terms of imagery at the new Stadium? McCarver acknowledged he saw some photos of his old friend in the park and did had not meant for the “airbrushed” imagery to be taken literally.

Turns out there are 21 photos of Torre on display at the new Stadium. One of them is just Joe and Steinbrenner, giant-sized, at one of the park’s street entrances. I saw a couple of others of note tonight in the Bronx, in my first visit since McCarver’s remarks. This would be the entrance to Suite Number 6 down the first base line. The motif is pretty straight forward for each suite – a series of photos of the Yankees who wore each number, even a list of them in the alcove just outside the door. And the pride of place in terms of photography goes to the odd image you see at the left. In fact, let’s get a little closer and see just who that particular Number 6 happens to be: IMG_0184.jpg

I’m not sure who that is with him, but that would be Joe Torre on the left. And the idea that he is somehow being dissed by being shown back-to-the-camera denies the purpose of the photograph: each suite emphasizes the Yankees who have worn that number. 

Off point, no, I do not believe there is a Suite 91 featuring nothing but photos of Alfredo Aceves.

Now, the image above is a small, untitled photo, correct? Doesn’t emphasize Torre’s vast contributions to the remarkable streak of four titles in five years? Try this, from the main concourse of the stadium, behind the ground level seats, down the left field line.


Prime location? Two beer stands and a men’s room?

Each Yankee championship team is remembered with a three-photo display. It starts with 1923 in the farthest corner of Right Field and then moves chronologically back towards the plate and out to Left. And who are the guys in the farthest right panel?


That’s right: the late George Steinbrenner, Rudolf Giuliani, and dressed for a very cold parade day from 2000, Joe Torre. 

I’ll repeat myself here. I’m a fan and friend of Tim McCarver’s, and Joe Torre is my oldest baseball friend. I’ve even worked with them both. And I know the Yankees could have done better by Joe, and his exit was unceremonious and poorly-handled by the club. I would also argue that the Yankees are the most self-important, overly-serious franchise in overtly pro sports (I can think of about 27 college programs that would at least give them a run for their money).

But Timmy was just wrong, in style and in substance. Neither literally nor figuratively have the Yankees excised, erased, airbrushed nor Memory-Hole’d Joe Torre. Doubtless the day will come soon, perhaps even while he’s still managing elsewhere, that they will formally retire the number and give him the big ceremony he deserves. To see a conspiracy in the fact that the day has yet to come is, at best, to overreact.


  1. taipeied

    I still can’t wrap my head around the portion of the article that reads, in part, “in the park and did not meant the “airbrushed” imagery to be taken literally.”. Shouldn’t “meant” be “mean”? 🙂


    I really hesitated commenting on this post because I thought my comments might get me into trouble. However, never one to withhold an opinion . . .
    Thank God McCarver apologized for his irresponsible, disrespectful remarks. It’s wearing very thin on me that we have Americans comparing our American President to Hitler. And now the All-American past-time and specifically the Yankees’ treatment of Joe Torre’s legacy has invoked the memory of Hitler and Stalin. Really now, is that the best McCarver could come up with? This is nothing that a sharp kick to the groin wouldn’t fix.
    “. . . there’s no sign of Joe Torre at the Stadium.” Seriously? Twenty-one photos isn’t enough? My own mother doesn?t have 21 photos of me hanging in her house. I really must speak to her about that.
    And that giant picture of Torre with Steinbrenner and Giuliani may not seem to be in a prime location, until you consider the amount of foot traffic the men?s room and those two beer stands generate. Doesn?t seem so bad a location.
    Keith, will the recent passing of George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard have any bearing on Ken Burns’ upcoming ?The Tenth Inning?? Surely, these events would warrant Burns adding a section on the contributions of these two gentlemen, to give them their due.

  3. mrlyngreen

    Joe Torre was an un-manager last night. It sounds like the Dodgers had a free-for all with the Giants. What’s next a bar room brawl?

    I liked Tim McCarver when he played for the Cardinals. Now he just annoys me. Apparently he has added foot in mouth disease to his repetoire.

  4. skikola

    Good entry, I have one point to make:

    I feel the bulk of this sentiment, this ‘The Yankee Organization has shunned Torre’ sentiment, stems from the final game at the Old Stadium. That beautiful night was indeed scared by the pitiful omission of any image of Joe Torre. All the video montages, the recognition to pretty much everyone who was important to the history of that building, and not one image or mention of Torre. If you erase that from the history books, it appears as though the organization has done nothing wrong or out of the ordinary, and indeed gone beyond by not giving anyone else #6.

  5. jeterandiborn62674

    Thanks for setting the record straight Keith. Personally, I can’t stand Tim McCarver. His know-it-all drawling for three plus hours is more than I can take. Has anyone ever made the word “perhaps” sound so much like some great statement on a tablet handed down to Moses? McCarver is part of the whole lousiness of Fox in its coverage of baseball. They’ve become lazy and act like covering baseball is a chore. He and Kenny Albert once had a half hour discussion about rock bands during a tied game between Seattle and Tampa Bay. He has basically ruined nationally televised games for me. I watched a lot of the 2009 World Series with the mute button on. As far as Joe Torre, I think it’s clear that the Yankees are still seeking closure with him. The split was mostly classy on a public level (I’m sure behind the scenes there was more tension) but the day is coming when he will be honored at Yankee Stadium and he will be everywhere– including between DiMaggio and Mantle.

  6. dadrules

    Keith, you are very polite but the fact is McCarver is an idiot. He fills in every space with inane talk and as usual doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


    Where have you gone Bernie Allen?

    OK, I’m straying from the topic, but there is something in this entry that just got me all excited – the prospect of my all-time favorite Yankee having his name adorning a suite at the new stadium. So the question is, is there a Suite #11, and if so, is Bernie Allen’s name emblazoned somewhere in the alcove? Even better, is there a photograph that goes along with it? Even beterer, could there possibly be multiple pictures of my childhood hero littered throughout the stadium?

    One time with the Senators, Ted Williams was going to fine all of them for playing golf during the baseball season. As the player Rep, Bernie Allen went to Ted and told him that it didn’t hurt his swing because he batted left-handed and played golf right-handed. Ted told him that was stupid and asked why he’d do something like that and Bernie replied, “So it wouldn’t mess up my golf swing.”

  8. 1948braves

    This story aside, I could never understand why so many baseball fans dislike Tim McCarver. I love his analysis. He’s one of the few that I do like, along with Joe Buck. I have always thought them to be a terrific team. I guess having a team in NYC means that every negative story out there about the home team will get a pretty quick reaction. This article is measured and professionally written with concise facts. How I wish every rebuttal in sports was written like this.

    I work with a NYY fan, and I mentioned Joe Torre to him the day George S. died. I was telling him about your interview with Joe. Well, this die hard “the NYYankees can do no wrong” fan bad mouthed Joe Torre because he felt that Joe somehow dishonored himself because he wrote a book that said not very nice things about some Yankees players. When Joe was the NYY manager, this co-worker thought Torre a saint (exaggeration on my part). I would argue with him that Torre always got great press because he was the manager of the Yankees and won 3 out of 4 WS, but that I could recall many many instances where I didn’t think he was that great of a manager at times. Of course I would get the evil eye. But I would continue with my reasons whether he liked hearing them or not. But now that Joe is gone, it’s Jeter, Rivera and Posada who are the true Yankees, according to him. It’s kind of strange to hear a grown man talk like that. It’s weird.

    This is the same guy who said during the NBA Finals this year that he didn’t appreciate the Celtics “buying” a possible Championship team this year. Can you imagine? A NYY fan had the audacity to say that. I didn’t let that get by without a comment of my own.

    Sorry to see Tim McCarver anger people over this story. When Joe T. left, most people thought it was time. His playoff record in the years preceding his leaving wasn’t too good. Did his leaving end on a positive note? It’s rare that endings are dealt with positively anywhere in life, but in NYC it’s especially difficult to leave on a high note because of all the publicity, all the different camps with their own opinions, as well as all the ego’s involved. But Joe’s contributions should not be diminished and it doesn’t appear the Yankees organization have done that. We have always liked him up here in MA.

  9. nutballgazette

    Just listening to Yankee Hater Bruce Jacobs of (Surprise) FOX Sports radio, he is condemning the Yankees for not having anything in the stadium about Joe Torre, choosing to believe the words of Tim (Glen beck) McCarver, Of course Fox has no E Mail inks to their lesser (talent) and I am not going to waste my time to call them all I am going to do is shut them off and put on hte 4 letter network or maybe 60’s on 6

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