Greg Gagne 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for March 20, 2017

The 1980’s were a strange time for the New York Yankees. They did not win a World Series in a decade for the first time and they had a hard time developing a new young core.

Sure Don Mattingly and Dave Righetti came of age in that decade. But young pitching stars like Jose Rijo and Doug Drabek were shipped off as were young bats like Fred McGriff and Willie McGee for veterans who did not help their cause.

George Steinbrenner’s impulsiveness was always in the way.

With Bucky Dent, hero of 1978 fading, the Yankees also had a revolving door of shortstops. As always, the team coveted proven veterans in place of young up and comers.

Greg Gagne was a young prospect in the Yankees farm system from Massachusetts. At the start of the 1982 season, he joined the parade of talented future big leaguers who would be dealt away. He was sent to the Twins for Roy Smalley, an established big leaguer.

By 1985 he was the starting shortstop of the Twins at age 23 while the Yankees were still struggling to fill the void in the infield.

Steady but hardly spectacular, Gagne provided some pop at short in an era where they were expected to field and not hit much. He would smack double digit homers and get his share of doubles and triples as the Twins formed a slugging team that resembled a beer league.

He hit a pair of inside the park homers on October 4, 1986, being just the second person since 1930 to achieve that feat.

In 1987, the Twins shockingly made the post season. Gagne homered twice in the ALCS win over the Tigers, posting a 1.187 OPS. He also homered in the World Series against St. Louis and the Twins won the franchise’s first World Series title since they were the Washington Senators in 1924.

Former Yankees Joe Niekro and George Frazier were also on that team. Also on that team? Roy Smalley, who was reacquired by Minnesota. Being a Twin was an easier path to a World Series than being a Yankee.

That was the case in 1991 when the 29 year old Gagne was once again starting in the World Series. (The Yankees had not appeared in a Series at that point since dealing away Gagne. )

He hit a key homer in Game 1 of the World Series, helping give the Twins the win over Atlanta. The two would play one of the great World Series in baseball history with the Twins coming out on top.

He bounced between the Royals and Dodgers between 1993 and 1997, making the post season again with Los Angeles in 1996.

That was the year the Yankees finally DID win a World Series title. They did so with a lot of homegrown players including a young shortstop named Jeter.

Maybe they would have made it back to the World Series sooner if they held onto a few of their homegrown players.

I’m just saying.

MIKE TORREZ – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 9

File Photo - AP

File Photo – AP

OCTOBER 9, 1977 – American League Championship Series Game 5

The 1977 Yankees are one of the most written about and talked about World Series winners in the history of baseball. The combination of George Steinbrenner’s madness, Billy Martin’s paranoia and Reggie Jackson’s ego under the microscope of a tumultuous summer filled with blackouts, elections and the Son of Sam made the soap opera of the Yankees too much to resist. Even a miniseries was made about that team.

The team had a spectacular conclusion, with Reggie Jackson homering with his final three swings of the season and delivering the Yankees their first championship since 1964. The pitcher on the mound for the clinching was not Cy Young winning closer Sparky Lyle but rather Mike Torrez, a steady veteran who never played a full season with the Yankees.

Torrez pitched a pair of complete game victories in the World Series and made his imprint on the 1977 title. But this entry is not about his World Series. This is about his performance in the ALCS, where his positive contributions were not as obvious as in the World Series but no less important.

The native of Kansas did not even begin the season with the Yankees. The 30 year old right hander was a steady 225 inning a year pitcher who bounced around from the Cardinals, Expos, Orioles and A’s between 1967 and 1977. (He was sent from Baltimore to Oakland in the deal that sent Reggie Jackson to the Birds.)

He found himself joining the Yankee staff in a deal that sent Dock Ellis to the A’s (Ellis lasted in Oakland for about an hour and a half before becoming a Ranger.)

Torrez was a relatively anonymous starter in a staff that featured future Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter, World Series hero Don Gullett and rising stars Ed Figueroa and Ron Guidry. Torrez was steady, unspectacular and reliable for Billy Martin, hardly a boat rocker on a team full of them.

In the ALCS, Martin gave Torrez the ball to start Game 3 in Kansas City with the series tied at one. He fell behind early and eventually finished with an unimpressive 5 2/3 inning outing, allowing 5 runs and getting the loss. The Yankees were on the brink of elimination on Torrez’s shoulders.

Sparky Lyle’s arm and the bat and speed of Mickey Rivers forced a 5th and deciding game between the Royals and Yankees for the second straight year. Billy Martin rattled the controversy cage again by benching Reggie Jackson for the finale. Ron Guidry got the start but did not have his best stuff. Brett’s triple and Al Cowens’ single put the Yankees in a 3-1 hole with 1 out in the third.

Martin lifted Guidry and brought in Torrez to stop the bleeding. He struck out Amos Otis and John Wathan to end the 3rd inning rally.

Then Mike Torrez worked around a lead off hit to throw a scoreless 4th. He tip toed around 2 base runners for a scoreless 5th. He tossed a 1-2-3 inning in the 6th and 7th. All the while Paul Splitorff kept the Yankees from scoring, but the Royals could not pad the lead.

Reggie Jackson came off the bench to make it a one run game before Torrez came out to pitch the 8th. He got the first two outs before walking the next two batters. Lyle relieved him and worked out of the jam. In the end, Torrez threw 5 1/3 shutout innings and kept the game from getting out of hand.

The Yankees would rally for three runs in the 9th and capture the pennant. Lyle clinched the game and was credited for the win. Torrez’s performance probably saved the game and put the Yankees in a position to win. Had Torrez not pitched well, the Royals would have won the pennant and the “Reggie Jackson in New York” experiment would have ended with him on the bench in the post season, nursing a reputation of being a small market player.

Torrez shone in the World Series. When he caught the clinching out, Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent was one of the players who embraced him. Less than a year later, those two would be linked forever as Torrez left for Boston in the off season and served up his former teammate one of the most memorable (and profane inducing) homers in baseball history.

But for Yankee fans, thank Torrez for giving them a chance to see a title and lead to Reggie’s signature moment.

For that reason, Mike Torrez is the Unsung Postseason Hero of October 9.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – September 23, 2015

Sporting News Archive

Sporting News Archive


Yogi Berra died last night. And unlike most celebrity deaths, the loss of this man affected me.

You will read a lot of funny accounts of his “Yogi-isms” over the next few days. But never forget, there is wisdom in every single Yogi-Ism.

But also remember his legacy in New York baseball. From the 1947 World Series to the 1986 NLCS, Yogi Berra was in uniform for every single great post season moment except 2.

From the Al Giofriddo catch to the Don Larsen perfect Game to the Mazeroski homer to the Miracle Mets winning the World Series to the Chambliss homer to Reggie’s 3 shots in 1977 to Bucky Dent to the 16 inning Mets/Astros marathon, Yogi was there.
It ain’t over until it is over on Episode 1,065 of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

 

Jake Arrieta, Hisashi Iwakuma, Cody Asche, Robinson Cano, Tyson Ross, Lance McCullers, Wilin Rosario and Kevin Pillar all added to their totals for Who Owns Baseball
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