NEW YORK, OCT. 30 -- Jeff Torborg, who transformed the Chicago White Sox into baseball's biggest surprise team of the season, was selected today as the American League manager of the year by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Torborg took baseball's youngest club and helped guide it to the best turnaround in the majors. The White Sox, picked to finish far back in the American League West after a 69-92 record in 1989, improved 24 1/2 games to 94-68 and challenged the AL champion Oakland Athletics until September.

Only Oakland and Pittsburgh of the National League had better records than the White Sox. Chicago also was the only team to hold an edge over the A's, going 8-5.

Torborg got 23 of 28 first-place votes and finished with 128 points. Oakland's Tony La Russa got four first-place votes and had 72 points and Boston's Joe Morgan got the other first-place vote and was third with 28.

Torborg was the only manager named on every ballot. Two members of the BWAA from each AL city voted.

Eight of the 14 AL managers received votes. Detroit's Sparky Anderson was fourth with 12, followed by Toronto's Cito Gaston (6), Texas's Bobby Valentine (4) and Seattle's Jim Lefebvre and California's Doug Rader with one each.

The National League manager of the year will be announced Wednesday.

Torborg is the second White Sox manager to win the honor. La Russa got it with Chicago in 1983, the first year the award was given.

Until last year, no AL manager had won the award without winning a division title. But Frank Robinson won last season after turning Baltimore from a last-place team into a contender, and Torborg, who inspired his club this year with comparisons to the Orioles, nearly did the same thing.

Torborg, 49 next month, was hired by the White Sox after they went 71-90 under Jim Fregosi in 1988. In his first year with Chicago, Torborg's team slipped two games from '88.

He managed Cleveland for parts of the 1977-79 seasons, going 157-201 with the Indians. He was a coach with the New York Yankees for 10 years.

Torborg was a catcher in the majors in 1964-73 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and California Angels. He caught no-hitters by Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Bill Singer, one short of the major league mark of four by Ray Schalk.