BEATRICE — Throughout his life, the late Gene Torczon pretty much saw and did it all when it came to baseball.
From playing to coaching, and championships to records, there wasn’t much he didn’t accomplish.
Now, his legacy will be enshrined forever.
Torczon, a Humphrey native and former Columbus resident, will take his place among the Nebraska baseball greats when he is inducted into the Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame tonight in Beatrice. Torczon is one of six men that will be inducted, joining umpire Jerry Janousek (Omaha), manager John Stella (Omaha) and players Mark Honnor (Lincoln), Dick Geier (Lincoln) and Wayne Kaeding (Sutton).
The process of making it into the Hall of Fame includes the nomination of an individual, submission of career information, review of the information and selection. When Torczon’s wife, Margaret, received the news of her husband’s nomination, it was a proud moment for her and the rest of the family.
“Of course, I was very pleased,” she said. “I knew the kids and the grandkids would be very happy, too.”
Gene Torczon experienced success on the baseball diamond from an early age. In his senior season of high school in 1954, he led Humphrey St. Francis to the Class C state championship. A few months later, he helped the Humphrey American Legion team win the Class B state championship.
Torczon was nearly unbeatable as a pitcher in high school, finishing with a career record of 29-2. His skills took him to the next level, and he went on to play at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Torczon continued to play well in college and was a two-year letterwinner for the Huskers — lettering his junior and senior seasons in 1957-58.
He had a career-best day on April 4, 1958, setting two NU single-game marks that still stand. Facing Tulsa, Torczon collected six hits and batted in 10 runs — both records that have since been equaled, but never surpassed.
That season, he won the Roy Wythers Award as the team’s most valuable player. In addition, he was named to the All-Big Eight Conference first team and the NCAA District V first team.
Following his college career, Torczon played in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system for one and a half years before an arm injury brought an end to his professional career.
He returned to the University of Nebraska and earned his master’s degree in 1960 prior to starting his career as a teacher and coach. Torczon spent time at high schools in Stanton, Schuyler and Sidney, coaching baseball, basketball and golf.
Torczon’s success wasn’t limited to baseball, as he had a solid four-year run as the first head coach of the men’s basketball team at Platte College (now Central Community College-Columbus).
The Raiders had their best season under Torczon in 1973, when they upset No. 2 Casper Community College (Wyo.) in the regional finals to clinch the school’s first berth in the National Junior College Basketball Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
In January 2011, that squad was the first team inducted into the CCC Hall of Fame.
Following his time at Platte College, Torczon went on to successful coaching careers at Hutchinson Community College and Taft College (Calif.) before passing away in 1985.
Regardless of the sport, Torczon simply was a winner, and used his competitive spirit to make himself and his players successful.
“I think he was interested (in sports) from an early age. I think it was his competitiveness. He just had a natural talent, too,” Margaret Torczon said. “(As a coach), I always felt he had the ability to get the full potential out of every kid that played for him. That’s a talent in itself. He was very successful wherever he went.”
Baseball past and present will come together tonight, as first-year Nebraska head baseball coach Darin Erstad and his staff will be in attendance to mark the event.
Although Gene Torczon isn’t around to receive his honor, his wife said he got plenty of enjoyment from playing and coaching baseball in his lifetime.
“I’m sure that he would say that he enjoyed what he did. I think he made a difference in kids’ lives,” Margaret Torczon said. “Through the years, I’ve kept in touch with some of his former players, and they said what they learned from his coaching really made a big impact on their lives. He did anything he could to help the kids. I think he’d be very honored.”