If you are a baseball fan of a certain age then the first player in the sport that you heard of with the last name of Torre was not Joe, but Frank. Joe may be in the Hall of Fame now, earning his way there as a manager, but he was also a better player than Frank, winning a batting title.
Still, Frank Torre came to prominence in the game before younger brother Joe and he was a very popular dude in Milwaukee, his best performances with the Braves coming at the height of that franchise’s love affair with the community.
Frank Torre died at 82 a few days ago after spending his final days in hospice care, and it was ridiculous that some obituary stories emphasised more that he was Joe’s brother than what he accomplished on his own. That just seems wrong. That approach dehumanised Frank, rather than humanising him, making him sound like just an appendage.
This is not to say that anyone feels Frank belongs in the Hall of Fame. The first to agree with that would be Frank. He knew that the younger of the brother duo from Brooklyn accomplished more as a player.
Frank Torre broke into the majors in 1956, though he might have made it sooner if he hadn’t spent a couple of years in the service. He played seven seasons of big-league ball, five with the Braves before they moved on to Atlanta, and two with the Philadelphia Phillies.
A 6-foot-4, 200-pound first baseman, Frank Torre was not a slugger. He had his moments with the bat, however.
World Series Winner
In 1957 and 1958 the Braves were the best team in the National League, winning two straight pennants. Both years, in an era prior to the creation of playoffs, teams that won the league title advanced straight to the World Series.
The Braves, then managed by Fred Haney, won the 1957 World Series, beating the New York Yankees. The 1958 Series was a rematch won by New York.
Torre, who owned a lifetime batting average of .273, made his mark in the ’57 Series when he batted .300 and cracked two home runs. His regular-season performance in 1958 was the finest of his career. Frank batted .309 with a .386 on-base percentage while knocking in 55 runs in 138 games.
Just as his teammates did in ’58 in round two against the Yankees, Torre faltered and made little contribution with his bat in the second Series.
Although overshadowed in the big leagues by Joe, nine years his junior, Frank Torre gained a new legion of supporters in 1996 when his brother was seeking to lead the Yankees to a World Series crown and Frank was simultaneously undergoing a heart transplant.
Frank’s kinship with Joe was widely noted in television broadcasts at the time and Joe’s heartfelt remarks about his brother shed light on their close relationship. That exposure – and the success of his iffy surgery – led Frank Torre into a new world raising funds for transplant organizations and lending his name to organ donor causes.
Over the last two decades of his life, Frank Torre became a bigger man off the field than on it.