Home Baseball great Mike Torrez dishes on MLB, ’77 Series, Lucky Bucky

Baseball great Mike Torrez dishes on MLB, ’77 Series, Lucky Bucky


mike torrezMike Torrez is the Ralph Branca of his generation. Like Branca, who gave up the Shot Heard ‘Round the World, the Bobby Thomson “Giants win the pennant” homer in a 1951 National League playoff, Torrez, who won 185 big-league games in 18 seasons, including two in the 1977 World Series as a New York Yankee, will forever be remembered for the one that got away.

Torrez, in 1978 with the Boston Red Sox, had a 2-0 lead with two outs in the seventh inning when light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent, who would post 40 career home runs in 12 MLB seasons, stepped into the batter’s box.

With one mighty swing, he would forever be remembered as Bucky Bleepin’ Dent, his three-run homer giving the Yankees the lead in what turned into a 5-4 New York victory that once again dashed the hopes of Red Sox Nation, and propelled the Yankees to back-to-back World Series titles.

Torrez, who will be in Roanoke and Salem on Saturday with the Mobil Super “Go the Distance” Baseball Tour to meet fans at an Advance Auto store and before and after the Red Sox minor-league game, knows that people will want him to talk about that crisp October 1978 day.

“I meet a lot of people who say, Yeah, I remember you from the playoff game when Bucky hit the home run. That’s the big one I get. I still have a lot of fun with it. No regrets,” said Torrez, a 20-game winner with Baltimore in 1975 who posted double-digit win totals in 10 of his 18 big-league seasons.

He was also a durable member of the rotations on the seven Major League teams that he pitched for, completing 119 games in an era when complete games were expected.

“When I first broke into the big leagues, I went seven innings first time out. Dal Maxvill, who was my shortstop with the Cardinals, came over and said to me, Rook, go nine innings, will ya, and tell me you’re going to win your game. I said, Yeah, OK, next time I will. That’s the way it was. Back then, starting pitchers, if you couldn’t complete and win games, you were not a starting pitcher,” Torrez said.

Today is a different era for pitchers, with complete games being a rarity in this day and age. Torrez thinks the issue is “mental” and begins with the approach that managers and pitchers take to strategy and player development that serves to the detriment of pitchers.

“I honestly never had a sore arm. I could still throw today,” Torrez said. “I used to throw a lot. I used to throw 120 pitches just warming up before the game. And then in the game I’d throw another 150 to 180, 190 pitches with the eight warmup pitches they gave us between innings. I threw a lot, and I built strength in my arm by just throwing.”

Which is to say, Bucky Dent would have had to have hit his improbable home run off a reliever today, when starters who get into trouble in the middle innings are as likely to be lifted as they are allowed to work themselves out of a jam.

“Today, they bring in, starting in the sixth inning, if a guy gets in a little bit of trouble, they start going righty-against-righty, lefty-against-lefty, and it takes all kinds of time and extends the game,” Torrez said.

Torrez could very well be the last Yankee to post two complete-game victories in a World Series with his effort in the ’77 Series, winning Game 3, 5-3, giving up just a three-run, third-inning homer to Dusty Baker in a nine-strikeout effort, and then winning the clincher in Game 6, an 8-4 victory that is best remembered for Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson’s three homers. Torrez went the distance again in the finale, squeezing the last out, a bunt pop-up off the bat of Lee Lacy, in his glove for posterity.

“They had a couple of guys on, we were winning the game 8-4, and I was still throwing good, 94, 95 range,” Torrez said. “When I saw him try to drag bunt and he popped it up, I was the happiest guy on the field, because Graig Nettles was playing back at third base, and he would have never been able to get to it.

“It came right to me right in front of the mound toward the third-base line. I waved everybody off, we celebrated, and it was the greatest feeling you could imagine,” Torrez said. “The butterflies you had in your stomach after everything was over. People running all over the stadium. It was great. Until you’ve been in something like that, you can’t realize what it feels like.”

Torrez left the Bronx for Beantown as a free agent in 1978, winning 16 games and helping push the Sox to a one-game playoff for the American League East title, the winner going to the AL Championship Series, the loser going home.

Both had won 99 games that year, and Torrez said the feeling among the players on the two teams in the Oct. 2, 1978 playoff was that the two best teams in baseball that year were playing that day.

“Unfortunately, only one of the two could go forward. But our ’78 ballclub was one of the best ballclubs I ever played with in my career,” said Torrez, who 36 years later still replays the game in great detail and can offer up several instances where the Sox could have overcome their fate.

Like Branca and Thomson, Torrez and Dent have made a career in retirement of doing events together that play on their shared moment in time.

“We’ve had a lot of fun with it. Somebody had to win, somebody had to lose. Unfortunately, we were on the losing end,” Torrez said.



ExxonMobil is teaming up with legendary baseball players from around the country as part of the Mobil Super “Go the Distance” Baseball Tour.

This Saturday, Aug. 23, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Mike Torrez will be in Salem-Roanoke to sign autographs for fans and speak about the Mobil Super tour.

11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Advance Auto Parts, 3653 Williamson Rd. NW Roanoke)

4:45 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.(LewisGale Field, 1004 Texas St, Salem)




Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.