Saturday, May 3, 2014

MISSING IN ACTION- 1974 JEFF TORBORG

You know, California Angels catchers of the early to mid 1970's got "dissed" left and right by Topps.
My last "Missing in Action" subject was Angels' backstop Art Kusnyer, and today's player is another California signal-caller, Jeff Torborg, who should have had a card in the 1974 set.
But before we get into the player, take a look at my design for the "missing" card:


You think a guy who caught no-hitters by BOTH Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax in his career would get a little love, especially since he did actually play in 102 games in 1973!
In those 102 games played he had 284 plate appearances and started more than half the Angels games that year with 95.
Then take into account that Topps instead went ahead and gave a card in their 1974 set to both Charlie Sands and Rick Stelmaszek, who appeared in only 17 and 22 games respectively as the Angels fourth and fifth string catchers the previous year!
How does that compute?
If you're keeping track, I've only named four catchers here, yet I stated Sands and Stelmaszek as the fourth and fifth string.
Turns out (and thank you to reader "ecloy" for the heads up) Topps also omitted ANOTHER Angels catcher that year by leaving out their second-most active back-stop in 1973, catcher John Stephenson, who appeared in 60 games, good for 132 plate appearances.
???
So Topps leaves out the three most active Angels catchers of 1973 and gives cards to two guys who totaled 39 games between them!?
I just can't figure it out.
Nevertheless, with the missing 1973 Kusnyer card, this 1974 Torborg card, and in the near future the missing Stephenson cards (yes, there were multiple missing cards for this player in the decade), I hope to fill in all the blanks for Angels catchers of the 1970's.
I'll also be writing about Charlie Sands and his TWO inexplicable cards during the '70's as well.
Keep an eye out for all of them here…
As for Torborg, after a very successful college career playing for Rutgers University in New Jersey in the early 60's Torborg was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1963.
He made it to the Majors in 1964 and went on to play seven years for L.A. as a back-up catcher before being purchased by the California Angels in March of 1971, where he went on to play for another three seasons.
After the 1973 season, as the Angels primary catcher among a slew of guys behind the plate that year, Torborg was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher John Andrews.
Turns out both players never appeared in another Major League game again.
Torborg was out of the game as a player for good, but he almost immediately made a go of it as a Major League manager, landing the job of Cleveland Indians skipper during the 1977 season (remember his card as manager in that awesome manager sub-set in the 1978 Topps set?).
This lead to an on-again/off-again eleven year managerial career between 1977 and 2003 managing five teams: the Indians, White Sox, Mets, Expos and Marlins.
Some of you may also remember that Torborg was the Marlins manager at the beginning of what was to be their World Championship season in 2003 before being replaced by Jack McKeon after a rough 16 and 22 start.
As a player Torborg never really became a full-time player, but man was he lucky with the opportunity to catch some memorable games for some memorable pitchers!
On September 9th, 1965 while with the Dodgers he was behind the plate for Sandy Koufax's perfect game against the Chicago Cubs.
Then on July 20th, 1970 he caught Bill Singer's no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies (funny enough he'd also be a teammate of Singer over in California).
But if that wasn't enough, Torborg ended up catching Nolan Ryan's first of a record seven Major League no-hitters when he was behind the plate for Ryan's masterpiece on May 15th, 1973 against the Kansas City Royals.
Not a bad string of historical experience for a part-time catcher in ten years!
As for Angels' catchers, next week I should have a card (or two) designed for yet another missing player, John Stephenson, who really got shafted multiple times by Topps.
Keep an eye out for it...

1 comment:

  1. I'm guessing that they thought Sands and Stelmaszek were "prospects"

    ReplyDelete

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