An underappreciated player during his day, Earl Torgeson, nicknamed the Earl of Snohomish, was a complete ballplayer. He hit for some power and a decent batting average, had a terrific on-base percentage, fielded his position adequately and stole 133 bases–a monumental total for his day. Earl led the league in runs scored in 1950 and helped lead the Braves to the 1948 World Series.
Like many players of his day, Torgeson’s Major League debut was put on hold courtesy of World War II. After his military discharge, Earl went to Seattle and played a season in the Pacific Coast League. The Braves saw enough potential in the Earl of Snohomish to make him their regular first baseman in 1947. As a rookie that season, Torgeson hit .281 with 82 walks, which gave him an enviable .403 on-base percentage. He would have six seasons at the Major League level with an on-base percentage above .400.
The Braves caught fire in 1948 with their terrific Spahn-and-Sain rotation. They romped their way to a World Series with the two war veteran pitchers leading the charge. Spahn, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and Sain, who was a pilot, met their match in the World Series when they ran into knuckleballer Gene Bearden of the Indians, who was seriously wounded during the war on a battle ship. Although the ’48 World Series was the Gene Bearden Show, Torgeson held up his end by hitting a robust .389 against Cleveland pitching.
An injury limited Torgeson to just 25 games in 1949 but when he returned, he was in top form. In 1950, Earl led the National League with 120 runs scored. He drew 119 walks and hit at a lofty .290 clip which elevated his on-base percentage to .412. And folks know that the man who gets on base the most has the best chance to score runs. The following year Earl had his career year for power numbers in 1951. That season he blasted 24 homers and chased 92 mates across the dish. The Earl of Snohomish also stole 20 bases which made him the only Major Leaguer with a 20 HR/20 SB season.
After a dismal year in 1952, the Braves gave up on Torgeson and included him in a four-team swap that netted them heavy-hitting first baseman Joe Adcock, who would team with Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews to give the Braves of the 1950s one of the greatest heart-of-the-orders in baseball history. Although Adcock became a star with the Braves, Torgeson’s career was winding down. He was able to hit .274 for the Phillies in 1953 but when his power vanished in ’54, the Phillies sent him packing during the 1955 season.
After a trade that sent him to the American league, Torgeson showed the goods with the Tigers by posting a 2-to-1 walk-to-strikeout ratio for the Bengals. The following year he cracked a dozen homeruns and led Major League first basemen in walks, which lifted his on-base percentage up above the elusive .400 again. Dealt to the White Sox for Dave Philley in 1957, Torgeson hung on in the Majors as a valuable pinch hitter with the Pale Hose. He ended his career in 1961 as a reserve for the World Champion Yankees.
G 1,668/R 848/H 1,318/2B 215/3B 46/HR 149/RBI 740/SB 133/BB 980/SO 653/BA .265/SA .417/OBP .385