Friday, April 30, 2021

#147 Earl Torgeson - Detroit Tigers

Clifford Earl Torgeson
Detroit Tigers
First Base

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Left  Height:  6'3"  Weight:  180
Born:  January 1, 1924, Snohomish, WA
Acquired:  Traded by Seattle (PCL) to the Boston Braves for two players to be named later (Tony York and Bill Ramsey), January 5, 1946
Major League Teams:  Boston Braves 1947-1952; Philadelphia Phillies 1953-1955; Detroit Tigers 1955-1957; Chicago White Sox 1957-1961; New York Yankees 1961
Died:  November 8, 1990, Everett, WA (age 66)

Earl Torgeson enjoyed a 15-year big league career with five different teams, leading the league in runs scored with 120 in 1950 and finishing in the top ten for fielding percentage by a first baseman in five different seasons.  His best seasons came with the Boston Braves.  In 1950, he hit a career high .290 with 23 home runs and 87 RBIs, and the following season he reached his career high in both home runs (24) and RBIs (92).  Torgeson was adept at drawing a walk, finishing in the top ten in the league seven times and his 980 career walks currently ranks 129th all-time.  He was also deceptively speedy, stealing a career high 20 bases in 1951 and finishing in the top ten in seven seasons, during an era when stolen bases were relatively rare.

1950-1969 Phillies Photo Cards
For his career, Torgeson appeared in 1,668 games and batted .265 with 149 home runs, 740 RBIs and 133 stolen bases.  When baseball expanded to his home state in 1969, he briefly managed in the Pilots' minor league system and suited up as the Pilots' hitting coach for the final weeks of the team's existence.

Building the Set
December 2, 2000 from Raleigh, NC - Card #212
I went nuts and bought 16 common cards for our 1956 Topps set on this day at the Sports Card & NASCAR Collectibles Show in Raleigh.  My records show the 16 cards set me back $55 which I would have considered to be a small fortune back then.  I hadn't yet moved back north yet, so I was still living in Raleigh at this time planning for my eventual escape.  I would have provided my Dad with an updated checklist following this show as he was back in New Jersey.

The Card / Tigers Team Set
This card marks Torgeson's return to Topps after a three-year absence.  For the record, Torgeson is one of seven players and eight total cards in the set featuring the subject wearing glasses.  The others are William Harridge (#1, and the A.L. President), Ernie Oravetz (#51), Clint Courtney (#159), Bill Virdon (#170), Tom Gorman (#246), George Crowe (#254) and Jim Konstanty (#321).  I'll need to check this as I go along, but the action shot has to be one of the only instances of showing someone with their back completely turned to the photographer.  Torgeson wore #9 for the first 10 seasons of his career with the Braves, Phillies and Tigers.

On the back, the cartoon panels highlight his move from Philadelphia to Detroit, and his success as a pinch-hitter.  Torgeson was a career .269 pinch-hitter (59 for 219) with a .419 on-base percentage to go along with 7 home runs and 47 RBIs.

1956 Season
In his first full season in Detroit, Torgeson appeared in 117 games while batting .264 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs.  He was the club's opening day first baseman and made 75 starts at the position with Jack Phillips and Wayne Belardi receiving 55 and 25 starts respectively.  Torgeson was lucky to have been playing at all as in January 1956 he flipped his convertible, suffering cuts and bruises but no broken bones.  He was fined only $50 for reckless driving while drinking and for not having a driver's license.

Phillies Career

Torgeson came to the Phillies on February 16, 1953 as part of a four-team, five-player trade.  Torgeson went left the Braves with the Phillies sending cash to the Braves and Russ Meyer (#227) to the Dodgers.  He was the team's opening day first baseman in 1953, 1954 and 1955, succeeding Eddie Waitkus as the club's regular at the position.  He suffered a few freak injuries in 1954, tripping over his dog and dislocating his shoulder and then later breaking his thumb.  With his power numbers suffering as a result of his injuries, the Phillies sold Torgeson to the Tigers on June 15, 1955.  Marv Blaylock and Waitkus received the bulk of the playing time at first for the Phillies for the rest of the 1955 season.

In 293 games with the Phillies over 2 1/2 years, Torgeson hit .272 with 17 home runs and 135 RBIs.  He's featured with the Phillies in the 1954 and 1955 Bowman sets, as well as on a team-issued photo card.

1949 Bowman #17
1951 Bowman #99
1954 Bowman #63
1959 Topps #351
1961 Topps #152

Other Notable Baseball Cards

First Mainstream Card:  1949 Bowman #17
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (8):  1951-1952, 1956-1961
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1985 TCMA 1947 Play Ball #32

42 - Torgeson non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 4/3/21.

Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
The Phillies Room
The Trading Card Database

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