Monday, July 2, 2012

Earl Torgeson: Dr. Phil and Mr. Hyde

Boy, does this guy look mild-mannered.  The glasses, the name, the slight paunchiness, the blank expression.  I was tempted to put him in my Are you Sure You’re a Ballplayer? post.

Turns out, though, that this dude was one of the major brawlers of modern baseball.  Earl Torgeson got into fights for getting thrown at, getting tangled up at first base, having a catcher mess with his bat, and “overhearing vulgar language in the presence of his wife.” (SABR Bio Project)  And you never knew it what was coming until Earl took off his glasses and socked you in the kisser. 

Torgeson was also a pretty decent ballplayer.  He was up for 15 seasons, getting in just short of 5000 at-bats.  He had a famous batting eye, finishing with a .386 OBP.   He led the league in runs one year, and was a 20-20 man the year after. 

Who’da thunk it?

1954.  Earl is 29.  It was several years since his big years, but he was still a respectable regular. 

So what do you think?  Guy down at the local garage?

1956.  The last year Torgeson would get over 500 at bats. 

I don’t know.  I’m thinking maybe neighborhood butcher.


1958.  Some slightly shady character that Robert Duvall might play?  Also, is he packin’ some chaw?


1959.  Switching to the pointy glasses.  Makes Earl look more like a …  geez, I don’t know what.


1960.  I think my grandma had a pair like these, though I do believe the women’s version was a tad skinnier.


1961.  Are the pointies gone?  And Earl’s definitely packin’ some chaw in this one.

This is Torgeson’s last Topps card.  Looks like he’s ready to head back to Snohomish (his home town), buy that garage he’s always had his eye on, and get a little huntin’ and fishin’ in.

I have no idea where this one came from.  The Yankees were, however, Earl’s last team.  So, this is most likely his very last card.  It certainly is an all-time classic.  I can’t decide if Earl looks more like a math teacher, accountant, or mechanical engineer. 

That Earl.  He’s like a chameleon!  I consider him the Merryl Streep of baseball!

Does Earl look familiar?  You’ve actually seen him before, swinging his bat hard enough to screw himself into the ground.


  1. The last card comes from a set given away during a promotional night at Yankee Stadium in the early 90s. The cards were sponsored by the electronics retailer Nobody Beats the Wiz. There were three nights: one fifties card night, one sixties card night, and a seventies card night. Each set supposedly had a card for every player who played a game for the Yankees during that decade. The company I worked for did promotions with the Yankees and their broadcast partners, so there were always free tickets around. The Yankees were breathtakingly awful in those days, so I could pretty much find tickets for any game I wanted to see. I am the proud owner of all three sets. The cards for Pete Mikkelson, Jim Brenneman, and Dale Roberts are worthy of a post. I can scan and send if you like.

    1. Tony:

      That would be awesome! I know the Pete Mikkelsen one will be great. Try Thanks!

      - Cliff

  2. Earl looks like he has a TV antenna attached to his cap in that final card!

  3. Getting signals from his home planet, I would imagine

  4. "Make funna my specs will ya? Why I oughta..."