Everybody’s favourite baseball analyst, Buck Martinez, turns 75 today.
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, backup catcher for most of his career, but Martinez did learn to turn on a pitch with the Jays. He hit ten 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. So, the Jays got good work from their catchers.
You do have to admire Cito Gaston’s ability as a hitting coach with some players. Nothing in either Whitt’s or Martinez’s history suggested they would be able to hit homers. Cito worked with Rance Mulliniks, Lloyd Moesby, George Bell, and Jesse Barfield.
Buck’s playing career ended in 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 Barfield to get Bradley at the plate and then another good throw from Bell in left, after Buck’s overthrow, to get Gorman Thomas the second out at home on the play. It was a 9-2-7-2 double play; I can’t imagine there have been many of those in baseball history. 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 into broadcasting after he retired as a player, working as a radio colour 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 also manage. Buck shepherded the Jays to an 80-82 record in 2001 and then started 2002 20-33 before the Jays fired him. It isn’t like he had the 1927 Yankees and messed them up. No one could have led that team to the playoffs.
Buck went back to the broadcast booth, doing colour 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 less thrilled with his play-by-play. It could be because they teamed him up with Pat Tabler. However, I do like him more teamed up with Dan.
Buck had a tough year in 2022 battling cancer, but he was back as strong as ever in 2023. I haven’t heard if he will return in 2024, but I imagine he will be.
Anyway, Happy Birthday, Buck. Have a good one.