Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #224, Rusty Torres (Article 43)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
I have to be honest here. I am not researching each player whose card comes up in the checklist to see if they were Yankees. Instead I’m doing this whole series by memory. I have studied the Yankees my whole life (or at least since I was eight years old) and I think I know enough about which players appeared in pinstripes to do this by memory/knowledge. Readers, if I have missed any former Yankees as I work through this series of baseball cards, please let me know
All that being said, I was pretty sure that Rusty Torres played for the Yankees, but I needed to double check this one as I knew nothing about Rusty Torres. He was certainly a Yankee, but what he did for them was a complete mystery to me until I researched this article.
The first fact I discovered cemented in my head the reason why Rusty Torres’ name was even familiar to me. He was one of the players (along with John Ellis, Charlie Spikes, and Jerry Kenny) to be traded from the Yankees to the Cleveland Indians for Graig Nettles (and Jerry Moses). Long time readers of the blog probably remember that Graig Nettles was my favorite player when I was a kid. Until this moment, the moment I began researching for this post, I pretty much assumed that Torres was just a minor leaguer who was an extra player in the trade.
I was wrong.
Rusty Torres played for the Yankees during the 1971 and 1972 seasons.
In 1971, he played in just nine games, but in that time, over 26 at bats, he hit two homers, three doubles, drove home three runs, and batted .385. That’s some debut in the big leagues!
In 1972, Torres saw plenty of playing time. He appeared in 80 games as an outfielder (before this exercise I always pictured him as an infielder). Unfortunately, 1972 wasn’t so kind to Rusty Torres. Over 219 at bats, he hit just .211 with three homers and 13 runs batted in.
Of interest also, as a Yankee, Rusty Torres had five stolen base attempts. He was caught stealing all five times.
Imagine going 0-for-5 in stolen base attempts!
Rusty Torres might not be a household name, but over the course of his career, the switch-hitting outfielder (I always pictured him as a right-handed hitter) was involved in three trades.
These trades netted his teams Graig Nettles, Frank Robinson, and Bobby Bonds. Think about that. Torres went away and superstar players came in. For a guy whose career batting average was .212, that’s some return on investment.
Rusty Torres’ career bWAR is -0.5.
Compare that to Nettles (bWAR = 68), Robinson (bWAR = 107.2), and Bonds (bWAR = 57.9) for a grand total of 233.1 bWAR.
Rusty Torres played two seasons for Cleveland appearing in 231 games and batting .199.
He then played two seasons for the California Angels (after sending the 1975 season in the minor leagues) where he appeared in 178 games and batted .194.
After those two seasons in California, Torres played two years for the Chicago White Sox where he appeared in 106 games and batted .266. (Had he finally put it all together?)
Probably not, in 1980, his final season, Rusty Torres, now playing for the Kansas City Royals, appeared in 51 games and batted .167.
Torres’ best year was probably 1979. That year, playing for the White Sox he batted .253/8/24 in 90 games. He also hit his 35th and last big league homer that year. That round-tripper came against Jerry Koosman (then of the Twins).
And that’s the story of Rusty Torres.