Joe Torre has played all sorts of roles in baseball over the years, and how you think of him first just might depend on what he was doing when he made his biggest impression on you.

Undoubtedly, for millions of fans, Torre will always be the manager of the great New York Yankees teams from the 1990s and 2000s who won four World Series, lost a couple of others, and were always in the playoffs.

For kids of the 1980s, Torre might be the skipper of some pretty strong Atlanta Braves teams … or maybe some pretty bad New York Mets teams a few years earlier … or some so-so St. Louis Cardinals teams to start the 1990s.

Before his decades in the dugout began, though, Joe Torre spent 18 years in the majors as a player, and a pretty good one at that.

And, for certain collectors (like me), the realization that Torre was a manager and a player may have come all at once.

Because, from 1981 through 1983, the typical succession of cards available to kids featured this run of Torre appearances …

https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F1802f124-b56f-4776-aa9e-3c3e06f80bf0_600x279.png

Find Joe Torre cards on eBay (affiliate link)

Find Joe Torre cards on Amazon (affiliate link)

Those are, in order, the 1981 Topps Mets team card, the 1982 Topps Kmart Torre card, and the 1983 Topps Braves manager card.

Of those, it was certainly the Kmart card that caught my attention first, thanks to the featured 1971 Topps card of Torre and the details about his gaudy stats for the St. Louis Cardinals that long-ago summer.

Of course, Torre wasn’t always a Cardinal, as I would learn later on.

In fact, he spent most of the 1960s as an All-Star catcher for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, racking up 142 home runs and a nifty .294 batting average in his nine seasons as Hank Aaron’s teammate.

Then, after a lengthy and bitter contract dispute with Braves’ general manager Paul Richards, Torre found himself on the trading block during Spring Training in 1969.

Though the New York Mets looked like they had a leg up in the negotiations, offering young Nolan Ryan as part of their package to the Bravos, it was the Cardinals who ended up getting a deal done — Orlando Cepeda was headed to Atlanta in exchange for Torre.

That swap happened on March 17, 1969, which was early enough for Topps to make note of the change in teams for both guys, but only in a textual way:

https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2Fed3c768e-5f20-4927-8d58-819bab4e1bf7_400x281.png

Find 1969 Topps baseball cards on eBay (affiliate link)

Find 1969 Topps baseball cards on Amazon (affiliate link)

That’s some no-hatted, non-inspiration right there, but Topps made things right in 1970, when both guys had full seasons with their new teams under their belts:

Cepeda’s card had him looking pensive with the bat:

https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F5d22e568-e94e-4512-8f30-1ec1f3fd67cf_250x346.png

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

And Torre’s brought his change of position into focus, along with his new team colors:

https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F899cb8bd-d41f-4eb9-ad6f-d0ebb02e2155_350x484.png

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

That summer, Torre would bat .325 and make his first All-Star team as a Cardinal before putting together his MVP season in 1971 while playing full time at yet another position — third base.

It was a time of change for Torre, something that would become a hallmark of his career.

And the first real signs of it can be found right there on his 1970 Topps baseball card, in the Busch Stadium sunshine.


Hobby Wow!

Torre did some pretty nice work with the Braves before his run in St. Louis, and then returned to Atlanta as manager in the 1980s. This lot on eBay is a great, classic reminder of those years:

https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2Fb33a0f34-9882-4a8e-9e62-b95bb8205e05_350x186.png

That’s a full pinstriped Torre jersey from his 1969 season with the Bravers.

Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).

ebay_market_182x76.gif