Today, MLB announced that Joe Torre, along with other former managers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, have been unanimously elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Expansion Era Committee.
Torre is known by many to be the man that brought the New York Yankees back to greatness after a disastrous 13-year period in the 80s and 90s without a single postseason appearance. He won the AL Manager of the Year Award in 1996 and 1998. During his 12 years with the Yankees (1996-2007), Torre compiled an 1173-767 record, good for a .605 winning percentage, and he led the Bombers to six pennants and four World Series Championships.
In the whole of the Yankees’ storied history, the franchise has retired the numbers of 17 former players and managers, eight of those sporting single-digit numbers. The following are your legendary single-digit Yankees:
No. 1 Billy Martin
No. 3 Babe Ruth
No. 4 Lou Gehrig
No. 5 Joe DiMaggio
No.7 Mickey Mantle
No. 8 Yogi Berra
No. 8 Bill Dickey
No. 9 Roger Maris
Any of those names look familiar? The single-digit Yankees are perhaps the greatest collection of baseball names of all time.
When Derek Jeter first came to the big leagues, a spring training equipment manager asked then-manager Buck Showalter what number he should give the kid, something in the 60s perhaps. Showalter immediately responded by telling the equipment manager to give him No. 2. The manager seemed a little shocked, but Showalter insisted that they had something special on their hands with Jeter.
It turns out he was right. The Yankees will undoubtedly retire No. 2 at some point during or after Jeter’s illustrious career as a player, leaving just one single digit remaining — Torre’s No. 6.
Should the Yankees retire No.6, thereby eliminating the possibility of any future Yankee wearing a single digit? None of Torre’s 18 years as a player were spent with the Yankees, and he didn’t end his managerial career in pinstripes either. At times, his career with the Yankees feels more like just one great chapter in a long story. The other single-digit Yankees pretty much had just the one chapter in their stories.
Billy Martin is the only single-digit Yankee to have his number retired for his accomplishments as a manager. He, like Torre, seemed to pull the Yankees out of the darkness. After an 11-year stretch absent of a playoff appearance (1965-75), Martin took over and turned things around. Despite his tumultuous relationship with legendary owner George Steinbrenner, Martin did help bring glory back to New York.
Martin managed the Yankees for a total of eight years in the 70s and 80s. He compiled a 556-385 record with a .591 winning percentage, and steered New York to two pennants and one World Series title. He finished fourth in AL Manager of the Year voting in 1985.
Statistically speaking, Torre certainly had a more impressive managerial career than Martin. Then again, Casey Stengel and Joe McCarthy had better stats than both of them. Stengel managed the Yankees for 12 years, went 1149-696 for a .623 winning percentage, and won 10 pennants and seven World Series titles. The Yankees retired his number in 1970.
McCarthy managed from 1931-46 and went 1460-867 with a .627 winning percentage. He brought eight pennants and seven World Series titles to New York. The only reason his number is not retired is because he didn’t have one, but he does have a plaque in Monument Park.
Martin is a good reminder that the Yankees in Monument Park aren’t there because of stats alone, but because of what they meant to organization. Martin represents a critical time period in Yankees history. Stengel and McCarthy were two of the greatest managers ever. In terms of what he meant to the Yankees, Torre belongs in Monument Park too.
Furthermore, judging by the current state of the baseball economy, career guys might be a thing of the past. If giving a baby-faced kid from Kalamazoo a single digit was outlandish two decades ago, it would be downright crazy talk today. They should retire No. 6 and close out the chapter on single-digit Yankees.