The final picture taken of Torrey Kretschman in his life, snapped at Sunday's 49ers game.
By Joe Eskenazi
If you Google the name “Torrey Kretschman,” you’ll find dozens if not hundreds of articles with headlines containing the clauses “falls to his death” “Monster Park” and “49ers game.”
Sadly, this has been Kretschman’s hello and goodbye to the world at large. He’s the man who died. His violent death at Sunday’s game has overshadowed his 31 years of life.
For those who knew him when he lived, it’s a maddening turn of events.
“Infuriating is a better word for me,” said lifelong friend Jodi Bazemore. “Torrey is now known as the man who fell — not Torrey the way the family knows him.”
The first thing you would have noticed about Torrey was...
his piercing blue eyes; they put even Paul Newman’s to shame. Then you might have picked up his nervous habit of shooting imaginary jump shots or his signature move of tapping the top of every doorway he walked through.
Torrey was the guy who always picked up his older relatives prior to family gatherings, but he was also the one out playing ball with the kids. He had more energy than he knew what to do with — no wonder he’d recently taken up running marathons.
He was the guy you called if it was 3 a.m. and you needed a ride. He was the guy who refused to let you mope. And, as a former server at some of Beverly Hills’ best restaurants, he was the guy to talk to if you wanted to cook a hell of a meal.
After a long exile in Southern California, Torrey returned several years ago to the Sacramento area where he grew up (the San Francisco medical examiner’s office got its facts wrong when it told media outlets Torrey hailed from Roseville; he actually grew up in nearby Orangevale and was living in Sacramento).
And, of course, he was a massive sports fan. Since he was born in 1976, the 49ers' truly super years would have been some of the fondest memories of his youth.
But none of that seemed important in the wake of Sunday’s accident. An ill-conceived, spur-of-the-moment attempt to sit on a wall suddenly defined Torrey Kretschman’s entire life. And the Internet vultures were quick to belittle the dead.
The comments posted on ESPN.com and San Francisco Chronicle articles didn’t just make one question the purpose of allowing Internet commenting. They made you question the worth of humanity. Before Torrey’s body had even cooled, hundreds of semi-grammatical posts flooded the Web deriding his stupidity, making callous connections to the 49ers’ awful season and, in short, giving a hard time to a man who just suffered the ultimate hard time.
Is there something about the Internet that brings out the very worst in humanity? Does the disconnect and immediacy divorce users from the notion that these are real people and real lives they’re scoffing at? Perhaps. But perhaps it runs deeper than that.
“Torrey would have been the best man at my wedding. He would have been the godfather to my children. He wasn’t in a hurry to get married and have a family when he was alive, but I know he sure wanted to do those things,” said Torrey’s 22-year-old brother (and roommate) Kevin McCray.
“He would have wanted to see our nephews grow up. He was such a big part of their lives.”
In short, Torrey Kretschman wanted a lot of the things everyone wanted. In his own way, he was a special man, but he was also an everyman. So, yes, that could have been any of us inadvertently toppling over that wall. Yes, life can be painfully random. And, yes, our best-laid plans can be irrevocably altered in an instant.
This is not an easy concept to accept. It’s far easier to jeer at the unfortunate man who died than rationalize that, in the future, the bell may toll for thee.
Eric Aboytes is all too aware of how easily life comes and goes, because he saw Torrey’s go. He was smoking a cigarette at halftime when he noticed Torrey simply misjudge the little hop he needed to sit himself on the four-foot-high wall and sail clear over it. Another eyewitness, Richard Somera, was close enough to make a grab at Torrey as he plummeted over the wall. Somera told police that he actually felt the denim of Torrey’s jeans slip through his fingers.
McCray noted that Torrey was a snappy dresser who always matched his cap to his shoes (which never had a scuff). When Aboytes saw the bloodstains in Torrey’s white cap, he knew he’d just seen a man die.
Aboytes sat for about five minutes and didn’t say a word. And then, with the game far from over, he left.
“After seeing that,” said the 21-year-old Newark mechanic, “There was no point in being there anymore.”
Donations to the Torrey Joseph Kretschman Memorial Fund can be sent to 3000 Lava Ridge Court Suite 22, Roseville, CA 95661. The fund will help pay for Kretschman's memorial services.