LOS ANGELES -- Contemporary baseball fans know Joe Torre as a manager, a wildly successful one in his last two incarnations. And since a fan born on the day of Torre's last Major League at-bat is already in his or her 30s, that perception is understandable.
But not only did Torre have a career as a player, he was a standout big leaguer, often an All-Star (nine times), occasionally a superstar -- his 1971 average of .363 captured the National League batting crown and endured as the league's highest by a right-handed batter until Andres Galarraga hit .370 in 1993.
Despite such peaks and a .297 average over a career containing 252 homers and 1,185 RBIs, Torre received only mild support as a Hall of Fame candidate on the Baseball Writers' Association of American ballot. Torre endured 15 years on the ballot but topped out at 22.2 percent in his final year of eligibility, 1997.
Torre is again a candidate, this time as a finalist on the Hall of Fame ballot for Veterans Committee voters.
Though he is on a players ballot, voters are asked to consider a candidate's total contributions to the game of baseball, so his managerial career, which so far includes more than 2,000 wins, six pennants and four World Series champions, could lift him to Cooperstown enshrinement.
Torre is the only person to win 2,000 games as a manager and also collect 2,000 hits in his playing career.
Any candidate receiving at least 75 percent of the vote from the Veterans Committee, which consists of the 64 living Hall of Famers, will be enshrined at the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2009. Results from the Veterans Committee vote will be revealed at 1 p.m. ET on MLB.com on Monday from baseball's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
The other members of the post-1943 Veterans Committee final ballot are Dick Allen, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Al Oliver, Vada Pinson, Ron Santo, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.
Born on July 18, 1940, Torre was a versatile talent who put in 500-plus games at three different positions -- catcher, third base and first base -- while spreading his playing career among the Milwaukee-Atlanta Braves (1960-68), St. Louis Cardinals (1969-74) and New York Mets (1975-77).
Torre's 18-year career generated 344 doubles and 996 runs scored over 2,209 games. He hit .300 or better five times, notched 200-plus hits twice and 100-plus RBIs five times.
In 1965, Torre won a Gold Glove for fielding excellence at catcher, and he twice (1964 and 1968) led NL catchers in fielding percentage.
Torre's sensational 1971 season earned NL Most Valuable Player honors with a second-place St. Louis team that finished seven games behind the Pirates. Significantly, that was the season of Torre's full-time conversion to third base.
In addition to beating out Atlanta's Ralph Garr by 20 points for the batting title that season, Torre led the NL in hits (230), RBIs (137) and total bases (352).
Since his playing days, Torre has served as a manager for 27 seasons with the Mets (1977-81), Braves (1982-84), Cardinals (1990-95) and Yankees (1996-2007) and currently skippers the Dodgers, whom he took to the NL Championship Series this past season.