Dan Schlossberg's Midweek Report: Torborg tells how managers can reach the Hall • Latino Sports

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Dan Schlossberg’s Midweek Report: Torborg tells how managers can reach the Hall

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COOPERSTOWN — Even after the pending enshrinement of this year’s troika, the number of managers in the Baseball Hall of Fame will stand at 23.

That includes several from the 19th century, before the advent of the “Modern Era” in 1901, and the Negro Leagues, never officially a part of Organized Baseball.

Twenty-three, one short of two-dozen and seven short of the number of managers currently employed in the big leagues.

In other words, it’s a tiny group.

But Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre rank third, fourth, and fifth on the list of lifetime wins by a manager. Only Connie Mack, who managed forever because he owned the team, and John McGraw, the anti-Mack in temperament, stand ahead of the newcomers, all of whom began in the 20th century but finished in the 21st.

“The constant thing you have to have  is good players and good organization,” says Jeff Torborg, who managed the

Jeff Torborg was the last manager of the Montreal Expos

Jeff Torborg was the last manager of the Montreal Expos

Mets and four other clubs after a long career as catcher and coach. “Then comes your game-plan. The very successful managers are themselves. They don’t try to be somebody else.”

A good relationship with the owner and general manager helps.

“A need a relationship with your front office that works and is not antagonistic,” the mild-mannered New Jersey native explains. “The personality and philosophy of the manager are important for his success too.”

The former Rutgers star played for the Dodgers during the tenure of Walter Alston, even encountering Leo Durocher as a coach, and later managed against LaRussa, Cox, Torre, Tommy Lasorda, Dick Williams, Whitey Herzog, Earl Weaver, and Sparky Anderson. All found their way to Cooperstown.

“I patterned the way I used my bullpen after Tony,” Torborg admits. “I saw how successful that was.

“And Frank Robinson was a big influence on me. When I was with Cleveland and Frank was a player-manager, he had his finger on the pulse of the ballclub. I learned a great deal in philosophy from Frank. I used to ask him why he made a certain move.”

Walter Alston's questions made Jeff Torborg think

Walter Alston’s questions made Jeff Torborg think

Torborg never asked Walter Alston anything, he says, but the manager did pose questions to him.

“When I was a young player, he used to say to me, ‘What would you do here?’ I was thinking, ‘Why is he asking me?’ I realized he was trying to teach me. He certainly challenged me to think about the situation. He even took me to a couple of All-Star Games as a bullpen catcher and batting practice pitcher.

“My rookie year, I was at LaGuardia Airport on the way to Shea Stadium and had Sandy Koufax on one side of me and Don Drysdale on the other. I heard people say, ‘Who’s that other guy?'”

Torborg remembers Shea fondly because it was the scene of his first major-league hit, on June 6, 1964. “It was a broken-bat bloop against Carlton Willey,” he recalls, “but it looked like a rocket for the rest of my career.”

Torborg has many memories of managers.

“I liked the way Sparky handled his team,” says Torborg, who caught no-hitters thrown by Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan. “I liked how he put a team together. Same with Ralph Houk. He was managing Detroit my first day as manager. I took out the lineup card and he said, ‘Welcome to the fraternity, I think. Ralph was a guy I really respected.

Managing was never easy, Jeff Torborg says

Managing was never easy, Jeff Torborg says

“I was with Billy Martin in four of his five terms with the Yankees. I learned a lot for him. I also admired Tony a great deal. We played his team so much — we were in the same division — that I really saw how he set up his bullpen.

“What I liked about Bobby Cox was how consistent he was. No show, down to earth, very genuine. His string of 14 straight titles is unbelievable. Think about what he did: he set that whole thing up as general manager, then came down to the field and made it work.”

Torborg remembers Torre too. “I thought he was a Hall of Fame player,” he says. “I remember the first time I went to bat against a knuckleballer named Bobby Tiefenauer. Joe was catching and as I stepped into the box, he said, ‘Hi, J.T.’ I realized we had the same initials. So I said, ‘Hey, J.T., how do you hit this guy?’ He said, ‘How would I know? I can’t catch him so I don’t know how you’re going to hit him.”

Induction ceremonies for the three managers, slugger Frank Thomas, and pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Elsewhere around the majors:

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim may have the longest name in baseball but perhaps the most talent, if a 19-4 mark before the All-Star break is an accurate barometer . . .

The Yankees stole Chase Headley from San Diego

The Yankees stole Chase Headley from San Diego

Operating without a general manager, the San Diego Padres swapped third baseman Chase Headley to the Yankees for virtually no return when they could have held onto him until the witching hour of the July 31 trade deadline . . .

Don’t look now but ex-Yankee Joba Chamberlain, sporting a beard that was banned in the Bronx, is having a phenomenal wear in the Tigers bullpen . . .

Another former Yankee pitcher doing well in a new uni is righthanded starter Phil Hughes, who won 10 of his first 15 after Minnesota signed him to a three-year, $24 million deal . . .

Ex-Met Mike Pelfrey, now with Minnesota, hopes to return in September after June 10 surgery to decompress a nerve in his throwing elbow . . .

Since his contract extends through the 2015 season, Tampa Bay ace David Price may not be traded now that he has won five in a row for the first time in his career . . .

The high-flying Baltimore Orioles made a wise move when they moved Adam Jones, their All-Star centerfielder, from his original position of shortstop . . .

Adam Jones broke into pro ball as a shortstop

Adam Jones broke into pro ball as a shortstop

Control artist Sean Doolittle is doing lots for the Oakland bullpen, which he reached after only 25 innings in the minors . . .

Tim Hudson has won as many games for the Giants so far this year as he did for the Braves in an injury-shortened 2013 campaign . . .

Sandy Koufax clone Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in the National League, should have started both of the last two All-Star Games for the NL, which instead lost both (plus the home-field advantage in the World Series) . . .

Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, so relaxed at the plate that he looked like he was falling asleep, swears he never stepped out of the box once during a career that spanned more than 20 years . . .

Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie, surprised this columnist by stating her belief that the film 42 was “pretty much accurate.” Just wondering whether we saw the same movie . . .

If the Mets finish at .500 or better, it will be their best performance since 2008 . . .

Before he was traded from Minnesota to Colorado last summer, Justin Morneau had 221 home runs, an MVP award, and a Home Run Derby win . . .

Craig Kimbrel leads the NL in saves again

Craig Kimbrel leads the NL in saves again

No surprise that Craig Kimbrel leads the National League with 30 saves but big surprise that St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal shares that lead . . .

Future Hall of Famer David Ortiz has passed Carl Yastrzemski on the list of career home runs . . .

Cincinnati’s chances of contending took a hit when the Reds lost their first four following the All-Star break . . .

Slugging Cuban defector Jose Abreu (White Sox) is on the fast track to the AL Rookie of the Year Award now that Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees) is sidelined with elbow woes . . .

Abreu and second-year Dodger Yasiel Puig, his teammate at Cienfuegos in Cuba, text each other daily . . .

Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton is literally stealing the NL Rookie of the Year award though Atlanta second baseman Tommy LaStella has injected himself into the race . . .

Last year’s top rookies haven’t fared so well, with Jose Fernandez (Marlins) succumbing to Tommy John surgery and Wil Myers idled since May 30 by a stress fracture in his wrist . . .

The AL Comeback of the Year race is over, thanks to the hitting exploits of Baltimore DH Nelson Cruz . . .

David Ortiz is still a hitting machine for the Red Sox. Image Credit: Bill Menzel

David Ortiz is still a hitting machine for the Red Sox.
Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Hard to believe the Houston Astros passed the Texas Rangers in the AL West standings . . .

Much-coveted veteran lefty Cliff Lee may have pitched his last game for Philadelphia now that the fading Phils have hit rock-bottom in the NL East, a dozen games behind the suddenly-hot Washington Nationals . . .

Surprise, surprise: Rick Porcello is having a better year than Tiger teammate Justin Verlander . . .

Toronto and Milwaukee, both of whom led their divisions most of the first half, are falling fast . . .

Encouraged by the performance of rookie catcher Christian Bethancourt while Evan Gattis was out with a back problem, the Braves are considering moving Gattis left, Justin Upton to right, and Jason Heyward to center — the same alignment they used during the second half of last season . . .

Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager has two brothers in the upper minors . . .

How in the world are the Mets managing without a backup middle infielder? . . .

Derek Jeter was once intimidated by fellow shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr.

Derek Jeter was once intimidated by fellow shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr.

Now it can be told: during his first All-Star appearance, Derek Jeter was too intimidated to talk to Cal Ripken, Jr. . .

Speaking of Iron Men, Lou Gehrig’s surname survives as a first name in two baseball families: former pitcher Curt Schilling and current All-Star pitcher Pat Neshek both named their sons Gehrig . . .

Baseball’s average salary has hit $3.3 million — explaining why tickets, concessions, and parking are so expensive — with the Los Angeles Dodgers leading the payroll pack at $241 million (10 players at $10 million or more).

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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