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MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

Torre joining most riveting list in sports

Former manager represents 17th number to be retired by Bronx Bombers

Torre joining most riveting list in sports

Nothing is more riveting about the New York Yankees than those pinstripes. OK, you also could go with the successor to The House That Ruth Built. With its distinctive frieze along the upper deck, the new place is as majestic as its forefather. Then there are the numbers. The most significant one is 27, but 16 is a close second.

In fact, the baseball gods might rank them 1a and 1b.

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About those numbers ... "Holy cow!" as Phil Rizzuto used to scream into the broadcast microphone for the Bronx Bombers.

We're talking about numbers of lore. They are even more impressive than those other noted pinstriped numbers: 56, which represents Joe DiMaggio's record hit streak, and 714, which was the career mark for home runs that Babe Ruth held until Hank Aaron beat that record 40 years ago. For a while, there also was 60, Ruth's single-season home run record, until there was 61, when Roger Maris topped Ruth.

That said, 27 is the number of World Series titles for the Yankees, and when it comes to winning ultimate championships in general, they are peerless by a bunch, and not just in baseball. They've also retired 16 numbers. Sixteen. No. 8 was retired twice, for legendary catchers Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey, and No. 42 was retired in honor of Jackie Robinson -- as it was for all MLB teams -- and again for Mariano Rivera.

Actually, the Yanks have almost retired 17 numbers, because they did the right thing Thursday by announcing they'll pull Joe Torre's No. 6 out of commission during a ceremony in August.

During Torre's dozen seasons in the Bronx, the Yankees became dynastic again, and that was some trick during baseball's era of parity. Nevertheless, he managed the Yanks to six American League pennants and four World Series championships. That's one more of the latter than Miller Huggins, who had the advantage of managing Lou Gehrig and Ruth for long stretches, and three less than Joe McCarthy, who spent 24 seasons as a Major League manager -- including 16 with the Yankees -- winning a record 62 percent of the time.

One of Torre's biggest stars also comes into play here. Derek Jeter is in the midst of his last season with the Yankees, before his clock starts ticking toward Cooperstown. So we can project the total retired Yanks numbers to 18, since Jeter's No. 2 is going, going, almost gone.

This whole "retired number" thing for the Yankees is wonderfully monotonous, and it's not because of the quantity.

It's because of the quantity and the quality.

Hold that thought for a moment, and now shift to this: Chuck Klein, Pete Alexander, Richie Ashburn, Jim Bunning, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Robin Roberts. Those players have their numbers retired by the Phillies, and that's a nice enough list, but it gets better when you study the names of the players and managers retired by the Giants: Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Bill Terry, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry and Willie McCovey.

Let's jump to the Dodgers, with the likes of Pee Wee Reese, Tommy Lasorda, Duke Snider, Jim Gilliam, Don Sutton, Walter Alston, Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella and Don Drysdale.

Inspiring names, and teams in other pro sports also have "wow" moments regarding their retired numbers. The Chicago Bears lead the NFL with 13, including kings of pro football such as George Halas, Bronko Nagurski, Red Grange, Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton.

The Boston Celtics actually surpass the Yanks in retired numbers with 21, and those honored by this NBA franchise range from Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy and Sam Jones to Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Larry Bird.

Then there are the 15 retired members of the Montreal Canadiens, with NHL stalwarts Maurice Richard, Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden among those leading the way.

None of those teams tops the Yankees, though. Not in general, and definitely not in this retired-number sense: You say every one of those Yanks names I just mentioned (along with Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin), and you feel something, even if you haven't a clue about the infield fly rule. Martin, Jeter, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Torre, Mantle, Berra/Dickey, Maris, Rizzuto. In numerical order, those are just the owners of numbers retired and set to be retired -- or in Jeter's case, all but guaranteed to be retired -- by the Yankees from 1 through 10. To finish out that distinguished list, you have Thurman Munson (15), Whitey Ford (16), Don Mattingly (23), Elston Howard (32), Casey Stengel (37), Rivera (42), Reggie Jackson (44) and Ron Guidry (49).

This doesn't include those with plaques in Monument Park beyond Yankee Stadium's outfield walls. Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams and Goose Gossage are slated to receive that honor within the next two years.

As for this year, Torre will have his special moment this summer before the cheering of tens of thousands of fans at Yankee Stadium.

You can already hear the Bronx Cheer.

The loving one.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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