It is everybody’s favorite play-by-play commentator Buck Martinez’ 72nd birthday today. I 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 Buck did learn to turn on a pitch 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 work from their catchers.
You do have to admire Cito Gaston’s ability as a hitting coach with some players. There was nothing in either Whitt’s or Martinez’s 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.
Buck’s playing career pretty much ended on a collision at home plate on July 9, 1985 at Kingdome in Seattle. Phil Bradley ran over him on this play. If you look at the video, that was one fantastic 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 did some ESPN games.
After 2000, Toronto GM Gord Ash decided that, since Buck could talk about baseball, he could manage as well. Buck shepherded the Jays to an 80-82 record in 2001 and then started 2002 20-33 before the Jays fired him. Anything I’d say about his manager career would be needlessly mean. It isn’t like he had the 1927 Yankees and messed them up. No one could have led them to the playoffs.
Buck went straight back to 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 they teamed him up with Pat Tabler. I did enjoy him more this year when they had him back working with Dan.
Anyway, Happy Birthday Buck. Have a good one.