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Ex-Yankees teammates praise Tino Martinez on his special day

06/21/2014 2:35 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Tino Martinez and Joe Torre shake hands after a victory.(AP)
Three of Tino Martinez's ex-Yankees teammates - David Cone, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera - as well as manager Joe Torre and trainer Gene Monahan were on hand at Yankee Stadium Saturday afternoon, watching proudly as Tino was honored with a plaque in Monument Park.

Moments after the guest of honor had thanked the fans on the field and spoken with the media off it, that quintet took the dais in the Yankees press conference room to reminisce about the player, the competitor, and the man that is Tino Martinez.

Below is what each one had to say about the newest member of Monument Park.

JOE TORRE: "When I got fired by the Cardinals in 1995, I had played for three teams (Braves, Mets, Cardinals), managed all three of those teams and been fired by all three teams - so I was in the bonus phase of my career when all of a sudden I get a call from the Yankees. I came to spring training in 1996, and it was an amazing group of players; it was Tino's first year and he had to go out and play the position that Donnie Baseball had played so well here, and he struggled early because he wanted to impress so bad and earn his money. But I remember he hit a three-run homer, and that seemed to lift the burden off his shoulders. These guys mirrored each other, because winning was so important to all of them. No one wanted to admire what they'd done, they just wanted to do it again, and Tino was right in the middle of it. A lot of times he didn't even think he helped the ball club as much as we knew he did. It was an amazing group and I just felt very fortunate to be a part of it."

JORGE POSADA: "The thing that I remember about Tino is that he was a hard-nosed player, a tough guy who wanted to be out there every day. No excuses, he played banged up, and he was always in the middle of everything. He had a great attitude that rubbed off on everybody. We knew that he was going to be in the lineup every day, and everyone else felt the same way; the lineup together was a winning lineup, and we needed to be in there every day. Hitting fourth or fifth, Tino was right there in the middle of it, a leader on the team and in the clubhouse. He wasn't the outspoken one, but you knew what was going on."

PHOTO GALLERY: Yankees honor Tino Martinez

GENE MONAHAN: "Unlike Joe, I never really got fired (laughs), I got fired unofficially about three or four times, but I just came back to work the next day, and when the phone rang and the boss was on the other end I figured I was alright! But Tino…I'll tell you what, that guy was tough. I watched him play in Seattle early in his career, and I watched a lot of games in my life and I said 'this guy's got some grace over there.' I saw a lot of great players, but Tino had a gift around that bag and had some pop as you all know. He was very mature in his playing days about injury and illness; he's a lot like Derek (Jeter) - there no sense of going to the ballpark and changing your clothes if you're not playing, there's no sense in playing if you're not going to compete, and there's no sense in competing if you don't win. Tino didn't lead with a lot of firepower - he let his stuff at the plate and at first base do the talking - but every once in a while if someone wasn't backing up a play or was a little lackadaisical, he'd give 'em a nudge and look at them with those narrow eyes and straighten that guy right out. He was a team player all the way, just like Derek, and the Core Four - heck, the Core 25 - because they all came out to play every day. If you couldn't play for (Torre) you couldn't play for anybody, and it was just an honor to be able to watch Tino do his thing and it's an honor to be here today."

MARIANO RIVERA: "When I would see Tino at first base, it was a relief, because I knew that if anything was hit to my left, I had someone there who could make the play, and all I had to do was run to first base and cover the bag. Playing with Tino was tremendous, knowing that there was a guy that would give you everything he had that day; even when he went 0-for-3, he never worried about that playing defense. He was not only a great hitter but a great defender, and on those days, you'd see him diving and making sure he'd rob some hits or do something to help us out. As a pitcher, especially in the late innings, you want those guys there who are focused on defense only when they're playing defense. He'd always tell me when I got in a mess, bases loaded with no one out or something, he'd say 'Mo, if there's anyone who can get out of this, it's you, so let's go at it.' That's a privilege when you have a guy like that who will tell you the right things, even when you don't want to hear them. Tino was one of those players that I admire; I was happy to play with him and I'm happy that I can call him my friend."

DAVID CONE: I don't think you can underestimate how tough it is to replace Don Mattingly. When Tino came in 1996 he had a little bit of a slow start, but then boom - we got 40-plus homers and 100-plus RBI out of him, and we got our middle-of-the-order power guy. That's what started the run; Tino was a key piece who fit right in the middle, and the team rallied around him. We went back to Seattle the first time in '96, he had that big series and got it going and we were off and running. We started in 1996 when Joe (Torre) came on board, Derek and Mariano showed up, and Tino was that key power piece in the middle of that lineup that set it up. You think to 1998, and a fastball from Armando Benitez hit him right in the middle of the back, and you remember how our team reacted to that; it shows you how we cared about Tino as a team, because we were all offended by that and we all wanted a part of that (brawl). Jeff Nelson and Graeme Lloyd came running out of the bullpen…I was starting that game, and I ended up in the dugout I think with Alan Mills in a hammerlock; it was just a free-for-all, but that showed how much we cared about Tino. From Don Mattingly to Tino Martinez, man, Yankees fans had some pretty good first basemen to watch for a long time. And the last thing I have to say is thank you Lou Piniella; make no mistake about it, Lou deserves a lot of credit for that deal (that brought Tino to New York) and he did another one for the Yankees on that deal."

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