Yes, I’m certain you’re all well aware that Joe Torre was the skipper of one of baseball’s most successful dynasties, but are you aware that he was one helluva player too? He’s not some Tony LaRussa – poor player but great manager. Joe Torre is more in the John McGraw mold: tremendous player and legendary skipper.
The Hall of Fame hasn’t called Torre’s name yet – it eventually will as a manager – and the reason I can come up with is that he was nomadic on the field as well as a double-play waiting to happen. Torre was a catcher for the first half of his career, then he rotated between the infield corners in the second half of his career.
Joe made his big league debut in 1960 as a teenager with the Braves. He supplanted Del Crandall as the Braves regular catcher in ’61 and hit .278 as a rookie, but Crandall reclaimed his post in ’62 forcing Torre back into a reserve role. The Braves decided to give Torre the bulk of the catching duties in ’63 and he responded by leading NL catchers in batting average and RBI. His breakout year came in 1964 when he was the only Major League catcher with 100 RBI.
Torre enjoyed his third straight All-Star appearance in 1965 (he would have five straight appearances with selections in ’66 and ’67) when he again drove in more runs than any other Major League catcher. Joe also paced all backstops in the long ball department with 27 round-trippers. But he was just getting warmed up. He won the catcher’s version of The Triple Crown in 1966, with 36 HR/101 RBI/.315 BA. He got his fifth straight All-Star nod in 1967 and after falling off a bit in ’68, he was dealt to the Cardinals in 1969.
With the Cardinals, playing primarily at first base since Tim McCarver was in town, Joe posted his third 100 RBI season. He made his All-Star return in 1970 and finished third in the National League with 203 hits. His high water season came in 1971 when he won the NL MVP Award, leading the senior circuit with 230 hits, 137 RBI and a .363 BA. Torre’s removal from the catcher position clearly saved his career, as Joe won his MVP Award as a third baseman, four years after the Braves gave up on him as a catcher.
Although Joe wasn’t nearly as good in ’72, he still led NL third basemen with 157 hits and 26 doubles. He hit .287 for the Redbirds in 1973 and made his ninth and final All-Star trip. After a solid ’74 campaign in which he hit .282 Joe was traded to the Mets and ended his playing career in 1977: the same year he began his managerial career.
Torre managed the Mets for five years – never finishing higher than fourth place. When the Mets let him go, he caught on as skipper of the Braves and won and NL West pennant in 1982. He remained with the Braves through ’84 and then got his third managerial job with the Cardinals in 1990; thus managing every big league team he played for. His finest hour came as four-time World Series winner with the Yankees. Now, Joe can be seen in the Dodgers dugout.
Joe Torre’s career stats: G 2,209/R 996/H 2,342/2B 344/HR 252/RBI 1,185/BB 779/SO 1,094/BA .297/SA .452