Joe Torre: Good Player - Good Manager
October 5, 2009
by William Szczepanek
Joe Torre's primary goal as a youngster was to be as good as his big brother, Frank Torre, who hit two home runs for the Braves in the 1957 World Series against the Yankees. He surpassed his brother's accomplishments both on the diamond and from the dugout. We very often see catchers take over as managers because of the experience gained as field generals behind the plate. But, usually the best managers are those with poorer playing records. Those that can identify with the struggling players seem to do better at getting the most from all of their players.
Joe is a big exception to this rule, being a nine time All Star, a top ten in batting 4 times. He came in second to Billy Williams of the Cubs for Rookie of the Year honors in 1961.He was a very good player through much of his career, but tore up the league in 1971 and won the MVP Award with a league leading .363 batting average, with 230 hits, 24 home runs, 137 RBIs and 362 total bases.
His career totals include a .297 batting average, 252 home runs and 1,185 RBI's which place him in the top ten for catchers, even though he did play first and had his best year while playing third. Not known as the greatest fielding catcher he did win a Gold Glove in 1965, but spent most of the later part of his career at other positions. Not having to catch seemed to improve his batting substantially. He hit for the cycle in 1973. After having walked in the eighth, and since he was very slow, he expected to be taken out for a pinch runner, but Red Schoendienst knowing he still had a chance for the cycle left him in. He responded with the necessary single in the ninth to complete the cycle.
Joe was a notoriously slow runner, even though he was not overweight. He played at 225 pounds until 1969 when he lost 25 pounds and remained at that weight. He a very powerful hitter, but hitting the ball hard and being slow enabled him to lead the league in hitting into double plays 3 times. he came in second in this category 3 more times. He also holds the record for hitting into the most double plays in a single game with 4. He gives all the credit to Felix Millan who singled in 4 appearances preceding his at bats.
As a manager, Joe compiled a .540 winning percentage over 28 years. That is an exceptional record considering that he started his managerial career with 6 years with the NY Mets where his record was 286 wins and 420 losses for a .405 percentage. If not for his stint with the Mets his winning percentage would be .567. In all he has 13 first place finishes and ranks fifth in wins of all managers.
Joe Torre is a likely Hall of Famer based largely on his managerial record, but his days as a player were also exceptional.
"When we lost, I couldn't sleep at night. When we win, I can't sleep at night. But when you win, you wake up feeling better." - Joe Torre
You can check out Torre's stats as a manager at Baseball-Reference.com.