It is everybody’s favorite play-by-play commentator Buck Martinez’ 70th birthday today. I really don’t think of him as being that old.
Buck had a 17 season career as a catcher in the major leagues. 6 of those seasons were with the Blue Jays. He worked as the right-handed half of a very successful platoon pairing with Ernie Whitt. Buck was a good glove/bad bat, back up catcher for most of his career but he did learn to turn on a pitch, at least occasionally, with the Jays. He hit 10 home runs in two consecutive seasons for the Jays, both in less than 300 PA. Whitt similarly learned how to pull a pitch. between them they hit 21 home runs in 1982 and 27 in 1983. For a bit there, the Jays got good
You really do have to admire Cito Gaston’s ability as a hitting coach. There was nothing in either Whitt’s or Martinez’ history that suggested they would be able to hit homers. Add in that Cito worked with Rance Mulliniks, Lloyd Moesby, George Bell and Jesse Barfield, among others.
Buck’s playing career pretty much ended on a collision at home plate July 9, 1985 at Kingdome in Seattle. Phil Bradley ran over him on this play. If you look at the video, that was one amazing throw from Jesse Barfield to get Bradley at the plate and then another good throw from George Bell in left, after Buck’s overthrow, to get Gorman Thomas, the second out at home on the play. A 9-2-7-2 double play. Buck broke a leg and dislocated an ankle on the play. He did try a comeback in 1986 but only hit .181/.271/.269.
Buck went straight into broadcasting after he retired as a player, working as a radio color analyst then moving to TV with TSN. He also worked some ESPN games.
After the 2000, Toronto GM Gord Ash decided that, since Buck could talk about baseball, he could manage as well. Buck led the Jays to a 80-82 record in 2001 and then started 2002 20-33 before he was fired. Anything I’d say about his manager career would be needlessly mean, and it isn’t like he had the 1927 Yankees and messed them up, I’m not sure that anyone could have led them to the playoffs.
Buck went straight back the broadcast booth, doing color for the Orioles. He also worked weekend games for TBS. In 2010 he took over from Jaime Campbell, doing play-by-play for the Jays games on RSN. As much as I liked him as an analyst with Jim Hughson and Dan Shulman, I’m not as thrilled with his play-by-play. Maybe it is because he is teamed up with Pat Tabler. I do like him better on the days that Dan Shulman does the play-by-play.
Back in 2014, Buck and Pat signed 5-year contracts with Sportsnet. If I count right, next season will be the end of that contract. With Buck 70 and Pat turning 61 this winter, I don’t know if they will be looking to re-up or not. Or will Sportsnet want to go younger? I would love Dan Shulman to get the fulltime job, but I don’t know if he is interested working that much.
Anyway, Happy Birthday Buck. Have a good one.