NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Torre walked into new Yankee Stadium for the first time, signed the clubhouse wall alongside other pinstriped greats and ended his estrangement from Brian Cashman with an embrace.
In death, George Steinbrenner had brought them back together.
Torre had not been to the Yankees’ home since his bitter departure as manager after the 2007 season, the next-to-last season of old Yankee Stadium. After 12 seasons and four World Series titles, he walked away after he was offered only a one-year contract.
“Yeah, I was hurt,” he said at a news conference Monday before the unveiling of Steinbrenner’s monument. “And yet if you try to be rational about it, I think you had two parties not knowing how to say goodbye. And that’s what it turned out to be — the Yankees feeling I’d been here this long, didn’t want me to manage, and how do you approach that?”
He announced Friday he would retire from the Los Angeles Dodgers after three seasons as their manager, and then received an invitation from Yankees chief operating office Lonn Trost to attend the ceremony. With the Dodgers off, Torre accepted and came to New York with former Yankees captain Don Mattingly, who will succeed him as the Los Angeles manager.
Torre and Mattingly received the loudest cheers when they appeared on the video board.
“You knew they were going to react like that,” Andy Pettitte said. “These fans know what they’ve meant to this organization no matter, you know, what has gone on over the last few years. Their marks are stamped in Yankee history, and that won’t be changed.”
Their appearances made it an even more emotional night for their former teammates.
“I know how much The Boss has meant to both of their careers,” Derek Jeter said.
Torre said he was stressed during his final three years as Yankees manager. After leading the team to World Series titles in 1996 and from 1998-00, his final seven seasons were unsuccessful.
Now his anger at the Yankees is almost gone.
“It gradually, you know, abated pretty much,” he said, wearing his 1996 World Series ring. “It’s much different than then. I’m not saying I would want to change anything, because you tell people how you feel at the time you feel it.”
He had not spoken with Cashman since January 2009, just before the publication of a book that the general manager felt spilled clubhouse secrets. After Cashman walked into the interview room and embraced Torre, the two retreated to the clubhouse for a discussion.
“I think we’ve agreed to just put it behind us,” Cashman said. “We had a good constructive meeting. We’ve taken the steps to start to repair whatever got broke.”
Cashman said the chilly distance between the two contrasted with their warm working relationship during Torre’s dozen seasons, of which Cashman was general manager for the final decade.
“It’s just not healthy. It’s time to just turn the page and move on,” Cashman said. “Whatever happened on that side is a small sample compared to the huge sample of all the good stuff that took place.”
Mattingly said he felt no bitterness when the Yankees bypassed him to hire Joe Girardi as Torre’s successor. Mattingly said he left as New York’s bench coach because he felt Girardi’s tenure would have been questioned during each small losing streak had he stayed.
“I didn’t think it was fair to him,” Mattingly said. “I love coming back to New York.”
Torre wouldn’t rule out taking another managing job — if the Mets fire Jerry Manuel, Torre would be linked to the job he held from 1977-81.
“I really don’t anticipate I’m going to manage,” he said.
But Torre won’t rule it out.
“When the season’s over, if the phone rings, and if it rings a number of times, I’m just curious what’s out there,” he said. “If somebody calls me and it excites me, fine. And, you know, you certainly have to listen to it. But I’m curious if there’s anything, because I want to stay connected with baseball in some way.”
Torre still is associated more with the Yankees than the Dodgers. He’s asked to sign more Yankees gear than Dodgers memorabilia.
And even though the new $1.6 billion ballpark wasn’t his home, he identifies with it.
“I didn’t work on that field, but it’s Yankee Stadium,” Torre said. “It’s the pinstripes. It’s all the stuff.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.