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Torre's Hall of Fame credentials undisputed

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When considering the managerial career of Joe Torre, you take into account not only the victories, but the dignity, the grace and the good humor -- even under the most stressful of circumstances.

It is, without question, a Hall of Fame combination. And on Monday, that part of it became official. Torre was elected unanimously by the Hall's Expansion Era Committee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

It was a day to celebrate managerial greatness. Two of Torre's peers -- Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa -- were also unanimously elected.

"When the phone call comes, it hits you like a sledgehammer," Torre said of being notified that he had been elected to the Hall. "I can't tell you how excited I am. And then what makes it even better is to go in with these two guys [Cox and La Russa].

"You guys [reporters] are going to ask questions, I'm going to break down, so I'm going to sit down for a second."

Torre managed for 29 seasons in the Major Leagues, recording 2,326 victories, fifth most all time. He managed five clubs, but it was his work with the New York Yankees that made an indelible mark.

Torre took the Yankees to the postseason all 12 years that he managed them. In that time, the Yanks captured six pennants and won four World Series championships from 1996-2000. Since then, no club has come close to that sort of sustained dominance.

But it was not simply the success on the field that characterized Torre's work. He handled the immense pressure of managing the Yankees with an unfailing patience. There was no doubt that Torre had talent on those Yanks clubs, but his ability to relate to a wide variety of people and maintain an even temperament in the most difficult of times was also essential to the success of the Bronx Bombers.

"Joe taught a lot of us how to win the right way, and then how to lose the right way," La Russa said Monday. "Tip your cap when you get beat, but when you win, you don't show anybody up."

Torre said that watching his older brother, Frank, playing for the old Milwaukee Braves against the Yankees in the World Series of 1957-58 gave him the idea that reaching the World Series should be a goal of his.

"That was the one thing that I always felt I wanted to accomplish," Torre said. "After I was fired -- from my second or third job, I'm not sure which one -- you lose a little heart.

"And my wife said: 'How do you want to be remembered?' I said: 'Somebody who really never reached, you know, what he was looking for.' She said: 'What are you, dead?' And so that was pretty inspirational there.

"Once you get into the competition, it never gets old. After we won in '96 with the Yankees, because that is really what I wanted, I realized it wasn't enough. And you just keep driving. You never really look back, I guess, until now, at what you did, because once you start looking back, you stop doing what you're trying to do."

Torre, 73, is Major League Baseball's executive vice president for baseball operations.

In a statement issued on Monday, Commissioner Bud Selig congratulated all three Hall of Fame managers.

"In careers of consistent excellence and incredible longevity, Bobby, Tony and Joe all left indelible impacts on our national pastime," Selig said. "For decades, these three individuals not only led great ballclubs, but instilled in their teams a brand of class and professionalism that baseball fans admired.

"It is fitting that Bobby, Tony and Joe will share our game's highest honor together. Joe and Tony have been outstanding members of our staff at Major League Baseball in recent years. On behalf of all of their colleagues with MLB, it is an honor to congratulate them and their families on this milestone."

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for

New York Yankees