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Joe Torre honors Don Zimmer in Hall of Fame speech

New Hall of Famer Joe Torre says that the late Don Zimmer “made me the manager that I turned into.”

Associated Press

New Hall of Famer Joe Torre says that the late Don Zimmer “made me the manager that I turned into.”

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Joe Torre had plenty of people to thank during his Sunday Hall of Fame induction speech. And despite going on for nearly 30 minutes, he didn't get to them all, including the very large omission of former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, for which he quickly apologized afterward.

But Torre had very kind words for Don Zimmer, his former Yankees bench coach and the Rays senior adviser who died last month.

"Don Zimmer, you know, aside from costing me a lot of money by introducing me to horse racing, eight years sitting next to me, he made me the manager that I turned into," Torre said. "He had more guts than I did, and sort of got me off the conservative platform.

"And I know he's watching us from a racetrack in the sky somewhere, and I know his spirit is in my heart."

Zimmer also got a shout-out from inductee RHP Greg Maddux, whom he managed for four years with the Cubs early in Maddux's career.

"Don Zimmer made me realize there was a difference between winning and pitching just good enough to lose," Maddux said.

Inductee Frank Thomas made a couple of Rays-related references, including in his listing of 138 former teammates Greg Norton (who was in attendance), former Rays TV analyst Joe Magrane and pitcher Joe Kennedy, who died in 2007. "A special friend who left us too soon," said Thomas, who played with Kennedy in Oakland in 2006.

JOE'S WOE: Torre realized immediately afterward that he made only passing reference in his speech to Steinbrenner, who gave him the opportunity to become a Hall of Fame manager as the Yankees won four World Series.

Before the post-induction news conference even started, Torre took the microphone to address his oversight.

"When I talked about the Yankees I mentioned George, but I didn't give him what my plan was to thank him and the fact that we had a great relationship," Torre said. "It was so obvious that I was going to do it that I went right past it, the whole Steinbrenner family.

"It's the proudest time in my whole career, and I just feel terrible that I omitted that."

FRANK FRANK: By far the most emotional of the six inductees was Thomas. The hulking slugging broke down early in his 17-minute speech and cried pretty much throughout, especially when he spoke of the advice he got from his late father:

"Thanks for pushing me and always preaching to me: You can be someone special if you really work at it. I took that to heart, Pops, and look at us today."

BRAVE NEW WORLD: There was a significant Braves presence on the stage, with longtime manager Bobby Cox and pitchers Tom Glavine and Maddux inducted, and correspondingly in the crowd.

And while there was extensive mutual admiration among the three of them, Maddux also delivered the most irreverent comment of the day, referencing an ongoing joke with his brother Mike about a specific bodily function.

"I was very fortunate to have a brother that I could learn from. He even taught me a little bit about science," Maddux said. "It has to do with a little methane and a lighter, and I still get a huge kick out of it today. That's funny, huh. Okay."

MISCELLANY: There was an on-screen memorium and a moment of silence for two Hall of Famers who died in the past year, Tony Gwynn and Ralph Kiner. … The crowd was estimated at 48,000, which new inductee Tony La Russa said "looked like the greatest rock concert that you've been to."

Joe Torre honors Don Zimmer in Hall of Fame speech 07/27/14 [Last modified: Sunday, July 27, 2014 9:23pm]

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