Jeter ceremony 'very proud moment' for Torre

Shortstop's former manager believes number retirement will mean even more to Captain

May 13th, 2017

Only 21 men have had their uniform number retired by the Yankees, the ultimate honor the organization can bestow upon a player or manager.

Sunday night, that total will increase by one, while another group -- the pinstriped single-digit club -- will enshrine its 10th and final member.

Derek Jeter's No. 2 will enter the baseball pantheon known as Monument Park, effectively closing the book on the Yankees' late-1990s/early-2000s dynasty. After Sunday, it will be quite some time before another number becomes off limits to Yankees players.

(No, the team isn't preparing to retire No. 99 for just yet.)

Jeter talks Judge, jerky on 'Tonight Show'

Joe Torre guided those four World Series-championship teams between 1996-2000, and although he has already seen Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams honored in similar fashion, the legendary manager was reflective as he discussed the upcoming ceremony.

"This will be a very proud moment for me," Torre said, sounding more like a father than a former skipper. "It's very emotional for me when I think of Derek Jeter as this 21-year-old kid that I met over the winter in '95-96, and now he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He's special."

Jeet 16: Pick the Captain's most iconic play

Torre is one of only 19 people that can relate to what Jeter will experience Sunday night, having seen his own No. 6 hung up in the Bronx back in 2014. (Thurman Munson and Elston Howard's numbers were retired posthumously.) But unlike his former shortstop, Torre didn't grow up dreaming of playing for the Yankees, so he believes the night might have even more meaning for the 42-year-old Jeter.

"It was pretty powerful for me," Torre said. "But for him, knowing that as a kid, the only thing he wanted to do was be a Yankee -- and not only was he a Yankee, but he put a lot of exclamation points on that, and at the end of his tour, he's one of the greatest of all time. That's pretty amazing when you think about what the Yankees' history and lore is, all the names that have worn those pinstripes. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, all of them -- it's pretty crazy."

Over the years, Torre has regaled us with countless stories of how he knew right away what type of player he had in Jeter. But two-plus years after Jeter's retirement and nearly a decade after their last game together, Torre admits that he couldn't have possibly known just what kind of career he was watching as it was taking place.

"The 12 years at the start of his career that I had him, you knew he was special, but you don't accumulate all the thoughts and think, 'What will this add up to?'" Torre said. "You just enjoy what he does. As a manager, he made my life easier because you knew he was going to show up every day and do the best he can."

There are 317 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a club Torre joined when he was inducted in July 2014. A month later, he saw his number retired by the Yankees, an event that, in Torre's mind, was on par with seeing his plaque hung up in Cooperstown.

"I don't want to say they go hand in hand, but the Hall of Fame wouldn't have been available to me if not for what happened with the Yankees," Torre said. "The Yankees, to me, will always be first and foremost. I never could have stepped up that high without those years in New York, so that enabled me to become a member of the Hall of Fame."

The same obviously goes for Jeter, whose entire career played out in one familiar uniform. Sunday night, the fans who showered Jeter with affection will have another chance to show their appreciation for the longtime face of the franchise.

"They'll just love him," Torre said of his expectations for Sunday.

Torre recalled his number retirement ceremony as being "a little overwhelming," though he isn't concerned with the enormity of the moment causing any problems for Jeter.

"He speaks from the heart," Torre said. "I prepared some key things myself, but I strayed off of it so often because as you're talking, something else comes to mind. It's quite emotional -- at least it was for me."

Torre's success in New York wouldn't have been possible without Jeter, who went on to win one more championship in 2009 after Torre had left for Los Angeles. When Torre's No. 6 was retired, he pointed toward Jeter and noted, "There's one single digit left out there."

As of Sunday night, that will no longer be the case.