Catching Up with Buck Martinez
Catching Up with Buck Martinez
By Sarah Valencia
A few weeks ago, the Kansas City Royals had the privilege of welcoming back to Kauffman former Royals catcher and current Rogers Sportsnet announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays, Buck Martinez.
John Albert “Buck” Martinez began his career in baseball in 1969 making his Major League debut with the expansion Royals at the age of 20. Since then, Martinez has collected 43 years of baseball experience, serving as a catcher for the Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, and ending his successful career with seven seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Martinez continued his baseball career as a color analyst for the Toronto Blue Jays, leading into jobs with TSN (The Sports Network), the Baltimore Orioles TV broadcasts and various ESPN telecasts. Buck managed the Toronto Blue Jays for two years starting in 2001 and has now returned as play-by-play announcer for the Jays.
Martinez shared several memories from his former career as a Kansas City Royal with Around The Horn, as well as some his favorite games during his broadcasting career. During his Major League debut in 1969, Buck remembers joining the Royals in June, fresh out of college and before he even had the opportunity to experience Spring Training.
“I came to Kansas City and it was a doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics and that was kind of cool because I was from Sacramento, so Oakland was a team I was very familiar with,” Martinez said. “I was sitting in the bullpen and they said ‘Rookie go hit a home run’ and that was my first at-bat in game one of the doubleheader.”
Martinez didn’t hit a home run, but it was the beginning of a 17-year Major League career.
The former Royals catcher spoke about how special it was to be a part of the first club in 1969 and credited his expansion squad for continuing to play great baseball following the departure two years earlier of the Kansas City A’s. Martinez’ loyalty to Kansas City is proven through his continued relationships with his former Royals teammates and despite his busy schedule, he happily keeps up with them from time to time.
As a catcher, Martinez experienced his fair share of home plate collisions, one of them in his first career start on June 28, 1969 vs. the Minnesota Twins. Martinez collided with Bob Allison (a burly former running back at the University of Kansas) resulting in an out at home plate and leaving Buck unconscious. Martinez jumped right back into the game despite his collision and hit his first Major League home run leading off the next inning.
Martinez remembers his famous collision with Phil Bradley (former quarterback at University of Missouri and the Seattle Mariners outfielder) where he completed, what is believed to be, the only 9-2-7-2 double play in Major League history. With a dislocated ankle and fractured leg, Martinez successfully tagged out Bradley and, after a wild throw that sailed into the outfield, tagged centerfielder Gorman Thomas while on the seat of his pants. The collision ended his season for the Blue Jays; however, Martinez remembers watching the A.L. Championship Series where Toronto dropped the seven-game series to his former club, the Royals.
“The Royals came back (from) a 3-1 deficit and ended up beating us [Toronto Blue Jays] in game seven, so it was quite an exciting time,” Martinez said.
After Martinez’ playing career had ended in 1986, he went on to broadcasting with the Blue Jays and managing Toronto for two years in 2001 and part of 2002.
During his broadcasting career, Martinez shared that his most memorable game was on September 6, 1995 while he worked for ESPN. That night in Baltimore, Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2131st consecutive game, surpassing New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig’s record. Martinez reminisced that Ripken hit a memorable homer in the fifth inning of the previous game when Ripken tied the record. The telecaster earned an Emmy Award for his coverage during that historic game and has since earned others for his work in the booth.