Jan 9, 2016

Former Met Kelvin Torve & the History of Uniform Number 24

Kelvin Curtis
Torve was born January 10, 1960 in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The six foot three inch, left handed hitter, attended Oral Roberts University at Oklahoma, getting  drafted in the second round of the 1991 draft by the San Francisco Giants. He hit well in the minor leagues, batting over .300 three times, unfortunately he spent over ten years there.

He began at A ball in 1981 going through the ranks with the Giants organization until 1984. He spent three seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization & then two with the Minnesota Twins AAA team, batting over .290 two straight years. He was a first baseman with very little power, getting his MLB debut with the Minnesota Twins for 12 games in 1988 going 3-16 (188).

In 1990 he signed with the New York Mets and hit .303 at AAA Tidewater, getting a chance that August when a roster spot opened up. When he arrived at Shea Stadium he found a uniform waiting for him in his locker. But the Mets clubhouse staff had totally screwed up, they issued Torve the uniform #24 which was last worn by the New York legend, Willie Mays.

Although the Mets had never officially retired Willie’s #24, former owner Joan Payson had promised Mays, no one would ever be issued the number after his retirement. Since the 1973 season, no other player had even thought about wearing Mays’ number 24.

Torve wore his new uniform unaware of the situation. The Mets played seven home games, and then went on the road to where else but, San Francisco.

The fans began writing & calling in to Shea Stadium in outrage over Torve wearing Willie Mays’ number. Imagine if there was blogging back then? The Mets smartened up, & asked Torve to switch numbers, which he gladly did.

The #24 was later issued to Rickey Henderson in 1999 and still hasn’t been retired, although it should very well be. Mays may not have been a career Met, but the number should be retired out of respect for his National League baseball ties to New York City, just as Jackie Robinson who was never a Met is honored in so many ways.

Torve played in 20 games for the Mets in 1990 going 2-9 as a pinch hitter, batting .289 overall (3-16) with his only 2 RBIs, coming in his first game. In 1991 he was back at AAA Tidewater batting .273.

He did get called up in July for ten games, being used mostly as a pinch hitter going 0-8. He went on to play in Japan for two years after that and was a teammate of a young Ichiro Suzuki.

In his brief three year career he is a .226 hitter with 14 hits one HR &14 RBIs in 42 games.

Retirement: Since his playing days Torve has been a salesman for a packing company in North Carolina.

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