Rene Torres was born and raised in Brownsville, and his stellar shortstop play on the Eagles’ 1965 baseball state finalists earned him a scholarship to Pan American.
He earned a master’s degree, taught in junior high and college, and helped more than a dozen non-profits.
Rene and Lucy, his lovely wife of 45 years, live in Brownsville.
Rene’s RGV memories are written by John Bourg.
Rene Torres was born in Brownsville in 1946, the youngest of 11 children. The Torres family lived at 8th and Filmore near Ringgold Park.
Rene’s mother died when he was 6 months old so his two teenage sisters took care of the seven boys still at home.
Rene attended Resaca Elementary and Cummings Junior High before going to Brownsville High, which was so crowded students had either morning or afternoon classes.
His four sisters married and moved out and though his dad put food on the table, Rene often found just a pitcher of water in the refrigerator.
He was so skinny baseball coach Joe Rodriguez asked him , “Rene, Do you eat?”, and gave Rene free lunch passes.
1965 Brownsville Eagles
Rene’s passion was baseball, and he was the shortstop on the championship 1965 Eagles.
Locals could not recall the last time Brownsville won district, but it probably had been 30 years. The Eagles were in the rugged 14-4A with Corpus Christi schools and the other South Zone schools Harlingen, McAllen, Edinburg, and Alice.
Coach Rodriguez, 29 at the time, said, “We had great pitching and defense, and were so fast our four speediest challenged and beat the Eagles’ 4×100 relay team.”
Two Superb Pitchers
The Eagles had two superb lefthanded pitchers. (K=strikeouts; ‘nos’=no-hitters; ERA=Earned run average — average runs/game from hits and walks, not errors)
13-3, 0.39 ERA, 139 K, 2 ‘nos’
12-1, 1.01 ERA, 203 K, 3 ‘nos’ including a perfect game vs. HHS
Hardly ‘Hitless Wonders’
The Eagles didn’t need much hitting, but a local sportswriter was way off base calling them ‘Hitless Wonders.’ Arnie Alvarez led the Valley with a .478 average; Cesar de la Garza hit .385; Tony Barbosa, 1st baseman when not pitching, hit .353; and there were no ‘automatic outs’ in the rest of the lineup.
District Champions at Last
The Eagles won the South Zone with a 9-1 record (23-6 season), and played Corpus Christi Ray for the 14-4A championship. After the Eagles and Texans split the first two games, the 3rd game was in Eagles Park with hundreds of overflow fans standing behind ropes. Charlie Vaughan was the starting pitcher.
After Tony Tamayo hit a 3-run homerun in the 4th, the Texans tied the game 3-3 in the top of the 7th. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th, Rene hit a homerun over the left field fence.
Rene could barely get through the mob of fans who broke through the ropes to greet him rounding third with the winning run. District champions at last.
March to State Final
The Eagles swept Waco Richfield in bi-district; defeated San Antonio Lee in regionals; and beat Galena Park 7-1 in the state semifinal. Though they lost the final to Dallas Samuel, the Eagles had achieved a historic playoff run for a Valley team.
Pro vs. College Baseball
Charlie Vaughan was drafted by the Milwaukee Braves ahead of Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver, and turned down a UT baseball scholarship. A year later with the Atlanta Braves he beat the Houston Astros 12-2 pitching to catcher Joe Torre. Vaughan pitched 7 years in the minors.
Barbosa, Torres, and Alvarez accepted baseball scholarships at Pan American. After 4 years at Pan Am, Barbosa signed with the Anaheim Angels. He played 7 years in the AAA Mexican League and 3 years in the AA Texas League. Cesar de la Garza played in the Astros Rookie League after graduating from BHS in 1966.
Torres at Pan American
Rene played four years for the Broncs, and made only one error in 80 games. Texas Hall of Fame coach Al Ogletree called him a “standout centerfielder.”
Rene found creative ways to survive at Pan Am since his scholarship covered only tuition and books.
He moved constantly among friends’ and fans’ homes; volunteered at South Texas Rehab Center for room and board; made the freshman basketball team for free meals; and was a volunteer fireman so he could sleep in a dormitory.
Rene once rented a tiny place without hot water or a shower, so he signed up for a morning P.E. class — and a shower!
Coach Ensminger heard of Rene’s situation, and got him a $147 monthly government grant based on his dad’s disability.
Highlight: Beating Texas
Rene said, “Beating Texas in 1968 was the highlight of my college career.” Texas in the 1960s had one of the best college baseball program in the country. From 1960-68, they won eight SWC championships and played in the College World Series seven times!
The Broncs in their NCAA playoffs debut lost the 1st game of the UT series 3-0. The 2nd game pitching matchup was a classic: SWC pitcher of the year, quarterback James Street vs. future All-American Tony Barbosa.
Torres hit a line drive that almost tore the 3rd baseman’s glove off to tie the game 1-1 in the 7th, and bunted the winning run to 2nd base in the 10th.
In Game 3 the Broncs led 6-3 in the 7th, but errors led to a 10-6 loss and the ‘Horns advanced to the College World Series. Under legendary coach Al Ogletree 3 years later, Pan Am beat Texas 5 of 6 and finished 4th in the College World Series.
Teaching & Community
With a master’s degree, Rene taught 8 years at Cummings Junior High and 25 years at UT Brownsville.
Rene helped more than a dozen non-profits; was a board member of South Texas ISD and Texas Southmost; and received the prestigious “Jefferson Award for Public Service” in Washington, D. C.
Rene is in the RGV Sports Hall of Fame and has published 200 sports articles.
He and Villa Maria alumna Lucy Tijerina have been married 45 years, and raised lovely daughters Denise and Melissa.
Rene’s story is inspiring. Despite severe challenges, he earned an advanced degree, had successful sports and teaching careers, married well to have a nice family, and found time to help the needy in his community.
Nice going, Rene!