LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Joe Torre quipped that a wave of emotions had "hit him like a sledgehammer" once the longtime big league manager learned that he had been unanimously selected to the Baseball of Hall of Fame via the 16-voter Expansion Era Committee.
He always has had a way with words, but it's the wins that are sending him to Cooperstown, N.Y. The 73-year-old Torre, owner of 2,326 big league victories as a manager, will have his day in the sun alongside contemporaries Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa next year.
Torre added that his 12 years with the Yankees were "the greatest time in my professional life." From afar on Monday, the Yankees applauded for Torre, who won four World Series championships and six American League pennants in the club's dugout.
"On behalf of the Steinbrenner family and our entire organization, I'd like to congratulate Joe Torre on his induction today into the Hall of Fame," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "Joe led our team during one of the most successful runs in our storied history, and he did it with a quiet dignity that was true to the Yankee way.
"Joe's place in Yankees history has been secure for quite some time and it is appropriate that he now gets to take his place among the greats in Cooperstown."
Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi was a member of Torre's first four Yankees squads beginning in 1996, then returned to serve the 2005 season as Torre's bench coach and catching instructor before beginning his own managerial career.
"Joe was a tremendous manager, and this is such a richly deserved honor," Girardi said. "I was incredibly fortunate to have played and coached for Joe, and I learned so many nuances into managing from him.
"The first thing I think of is how much of an importance he placed on developing and cultivating relationships. Not only with players, but with everyone he came in contact with. It's something that was the bedrock for his success."
Yankees captain Derek Jeter has never removed the "Mr." from Torre's name, the sign of respect he displayed as the young shortstop on Torre's first Yankees team in '96.
"Mr. Torre is like a second father to me," Jeter said. "I learned so much from him, but what sticks with me the most is the way he treated everyone with respect and fairness. In my opinion, it was his greatest attribute. I can't think of anyone more deserving of this honor."
Longtime Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who starred as a setup man on the '96 World Series squad before beginning his charge toward the all-time saves record as a closer the next season, echoed similar warm thoughts for Torre.
"I could not be more proud," Rivera said. "What made him special was that he was always there to support his players, to offer encouragement. And if he saw something he didn't like, he'd be the first to pull you aside and let you know, but he did it with class.
"Joe let us enjoy the game. When you have a manager like that, you play with love and good things happen. As a player, that's all you can ever ask for."
Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, the other members of the "Core Four," lauded Torre's touch and demeanor as being integral to making their Yankees into a dynasty.
"I'm so excited for Joe. In many ways, he was the pulse of all those championship teams," Pettitte said. "The one thing about Joe is that he never panicked, and that type of calm demeanor allowed us to go out and do the things we were capable of doing. He was a great teacher and father figure to all of us."
"I'm so happy for Joe and his family," Posada added. "He was our leader and he was also our security blanket. When I played for Joe, I felt like he was my dad. We played the game with respect and honor, and we took those qualities from him. He's one of the immortals now."