Mike Torrez

A Baseball Biography

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About the Book

The history of baseball is filled with players whose careers were defined by one bad play. Mike Torrez is remembered as the pitcher who gave up the infamous three-run homer to Bucky “Bleeping” Dent in the 1978 playoffs tie-breaker between the Red Sox and Yankees. Yet Torrez’s life added up to much more than his worst moment on the mound. Coming from a vibrant Mexican American community that settled in Topeka, Kansas, in the early 1900s, he made it to the Majors by his own talent and efforts, with the help of an athletic program for Mexican youth that spread through the Midwest, Texas and Mexico during the 20th century. He was in the middle of many transformative events of the 1970s—such as the rise of free agency—and was an ethnic role model in the years before the “Fernandomania” of 1981. This book covers Torrez’s life and career as the winningest Mexican American pitcher in Major League history.

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About the Author(s)

Jorge Iber is an associate dean and a professor of history at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He is the author of numerous works on the role of Latinos and Latinas in U.S. sports.

Bibliographic Details

Jorge Iber

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 268
Bibliographic Info: 30 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9632-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2445-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction: Mike Torrez, from the Barrios of Kansas to the Major Leagues and Beyond 1
1. Riding the Rails and Shooting for Their Supper: Early Mexican American Life in Kansas, 1900–1950 11
2. “Winning a Place on the Varsity Has No Attraction for Them”: Mexican Americans, Sports and Community in Kansas and Other Parts of the Midwest, 1920–1965 27
3. “I’m Just Thankful That God Gave Me a Good Arm”: Childhood, Family Life and Athletics in the Oakland Barrio, 1946–1964 42
4. “A Bit Wild, but a Great Fastball”: Torrez’s Time in the Minor Leagues and His Arrival in St. Louis, 1964–1969 60
5. “I Was Surprised They Gave Up on Me So Quick”: Torrez’s Time in St. Louis and Montreal, 1969–1974 87
6. “I’m One of the Best in the Business Right Now”: Torrez’s Seasons with Baltimore and Oakland, 1975–1977 119
7. “I’m Curious to See What I’m Worth in the Open Market”: Torrez’s Transformation from World Series Champion to Scapegoat, 1977–1978 136
8. No Ralph Branca or Fernando Valenzuela: Torrez’s Final Years in Professional Baseball, 1979–1985 174
9. Unloading the Poltergeist: Torrez’s ­Post-MLB Life, His Career and Its Significance, 1986–2016 203
Chapter Notes 215
Bibliography 237
Index 255

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “This is the first book to cover the entire career of Mike Torrez and contributes greatly to the literature on the Mexican-American experience of the twentieth century, against a backdrop of baseball. Overall, this is a good read for any baseball fan and a nice trip back through the decades of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Iber is a professional historian who knows how to conduct research and it shows”—Sport in American History
  • “Should become a cornerstone in the historiography of Latino/a sport and the relationship between Latino/a ancestry and American identity”—Journal of Sport History
  • “A good read for any baseball fan and a nice trip back through the decades of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Iber is a professional historian who knows how to conduct research and it shows.”—Doug Wilson Baseball Blogspot.