The New Joe Arrives at Yankee Stadium

NEW YORK (AP) -- Joe Girardi stepped to the podium, put on his new pinstriped jersey and showed off a most appropriate number - 27.

As in, now it's his job to lead the New York Yankees to their 27th World Series championship.

"How many do they have?" the new manager said Thursday, knowing full well the answer. In fact, that's precisely why he picked the number.

Girardi's name and picture were displayed on the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium for his introductory news conference. The team did its best to make him feel welcome, with general manager Brian Cashman presenting Girardi's wife, Kim, with a bouquet of roses.

"This is where we wanted to end up," Girardi said.

Girardi made it more of a family affair with a story about his father, who he said has Alzheimer's.

Steadying himself, Girardi said his dad hadn't spoken for a month. That is, until a caregiver showed his father a picture of Girardi being chosen as the Yankees manager.

"Oh, yeah," Girardi said his dad responded.

Girardi got a three-year contract. He said he had spoken to Joe Torre, who managed the Yankees to 12 straight postseason appearances. He also spoke with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

"He was very congratulatory," Girardi said. "He said: `It's great to have you aboard.'"

After New York lost in the first round of the playoffs to Cleveland, Torre rejected a one-year contract with a pay cut.

"Joe had always been a person I always looked up to, respected," Girardi said. "We had a great conversation."

Girardi played, coached and broadcast for the team. He was the bench coach before leaving for the Florida Marlins, where he was the 2006 NL Manager of the Year.

Girardi said he'd spoken with former Yankees great Don Mattingly, who was Torre's bench coach last year. Mattingly wanted the manager's job and after finding out he hadn't been picked, he said he was not interested in a coaching spot for next year.

"I would've loved to have had him," Girardi said.

Girardi played for the Yankees and won three World Series championships as a hard-nosed catcher.

"The four greatest years of my career as a baseball player," he said.

The former Yankees broadcaster now gets the big office off the clubhouse, hoping he's the last occupant before the ballpark closes after next season.

This was the first introduction of a new Yankees manager at the ballpark since Torre was presented on Nov. 2, 1995. The following day the Daily News ran a backpage banner headline that became famous: "CLUELESS JOE" followed in smaller type by: "TORRE HAS NO IDEA WHAT HE'S GETTING INTO."

Torre went on to lead the Yankees to four World Series titles in his first five seasons, joining Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel - Hall of Famers all - as the most successful managers in team history.

Torre didn't win the World Series in the following seven seasons. He chose to walk away when Steinbrenner and team management did not offer a contract Torre found satisfactory.

Girardi received a $7.8 million, three-year contract, nearly four times the $2.1 million, three-year deal the Marlins gave him before the 2006 season for his first managing job. That agreement called for annual salaries of $600,000, $700,000 and $800,000, but Girardi was fired after one season when he clashed with management.

He led a young Florida team to a 78-84 record, keeping the Marlins in contention. His Yankees contract includes a signing bonus of $300,000 payable over three years, annual salaries of $2.5 million and the chance to earn performance bonuses.

Girardi pushed his Marlins hard. Will he have to alter his style in a clubhouse filled with veterans used to Torre's laissez-faire approach? And what about dealing with George Steinbrenner?

"I still think the Boss is the boss," he said. "I've always enjoyed my times dealing with him."

© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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