Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #365, Mike Torrez (Article 67)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
Everybody likes to remember Mike Torrez for one pitch he threw.
I like to remember a different pitch:
“One out is all they need… a fly ball, anything… that’s all they need…
That’ll do it…
That’s going to do it!
The Yankees win their 21st World Series!!!”
People remember a different pitch, one that came a year later, but this is the one I choose to remember as it capped and put a close to a Yankees World Championship (which also was the game that cemented my love of baseball and the Yankees).
The starting pitcher for the Yankees on the day that Reggie Jackson hit his three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series was Mike Torrez. Mike Torrez was also the finishing pitcher. When he caught the pop-up off the bat of Lee Lacy of the Dodgers, the Yankees had won it all, pandemonium ensued, and a little boy, up way past his bedtime, was overjoyed.
In that game, Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, Torrez allowed nine hits and he walked two in going the distance. It was his second win of the series. Earlier, with the series tied at one game a piece, Torrez also went the distance in Game Three beating Tommy John and the Dodgers 5-3.
Mike Torrez was the only Yankees pitcher to win multiple games in the World Series that year. The team’s other two wins came from Sparky Lyle (Game 1) and Ron Guidry (Game 4).
Not a bad resume… 2 games, 2 complete games, 2 wins. 1 World Championship. (Priceless.)
For a pitcher so much a part of Yankees lore (though his two wins are mostly forgotten today overshadowed by three long balls from Reggie and a shorter long ball from Bucky Dent the next year) it is interesting that Mike Torrez never appeared on a regular issue Topps baseball card as a Yankee. The 1977 card shows him as an Oakland A. The next year’s set featured him as a Red Sox.
But Yankees fans in the NY/NJ area might remember that the Burger King Yankees Set did include Torrez.
Mike Torrez had had a long career before he ever put on the Yankee pinstripes.
Torrez reached the big leagues in 1967 with the St. Louis Cardinals. He pitched for the Cardinals until 1971 when he was traded during the season to the Montreal Expos for Bob Reynolds. He didn’t know it then, but he probably should have kept his bags packed because he was about to continue to travel:
1974 – traded by the Expos to the Baltimore Orioles
1976 – traded by the Orioles to the Oakland A’s
1977 – traded by the A’s to the New York Yankees
1978 – signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox
Torrez stayed with the Red Sox until he was traded to the New York Mets in 1984.
After playing for the A’s, and before playing for the Yankees, Reggie Jackson played on the Baltimore Orioles. (It’s always strange seeing images of Reggie as an Oriole.) One of the players in the trade that sent him to Baltimore was Mike Torrez. The 1976 trade, made on May 2, had Reggie and Ken Holtzman (as the headliners) going to the Orioles in exchange for Torrez and Don Baylor (as the headliners). All would eventually be Yankees.
The next year, the Yankees sent Dock Ellis and two lesser players to the A’s in exchange for Torrez in late April 1977
As a pitcher, Torrez, a right-hander, was a workhorse. He started 30 or more games every season from 1972 through 1983 (save for the 1981 strike year when he started 22 games). He threw over 200 innings ten times. Seven times he won 15 or more games. His record in that period was 163-137, 3.91.
As a Yankee, Torrez made 31 starts. He won 14 games and lost 12 pitching to a 3.82 ERA.
In the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals, he pitched twice and did not win any games. That, of course changed in the 1977 World Series when he beat the Dodgers twice.
Then he left to find his riches in Boston.
And it was in Boston, in a one game playoff, that he served up one of the most famous home runs in history – one that overshadowed his previous Yankees legacy.
You just can’t tell the story of Mike Torrez without also, eventually mentioning Bucky Dent.