Thursday, January 17, 2013

#487 - Ted Martinez


1973 was a pretty typical season for Ted Martinez. Despite the acquisition of Felix Millan – pretty much the only regular not hurt during the year – to take over second base, Ted put in time at three positions: shortstop, third base, and center field. At the beginning of September, just as the Mets were starting their climb out of last place, Ted got a rare start at third in a double-header against the Phillies and tagged Steve Carlton for four hits, including a double and a homer, and four RBI’s to support Jerry Koosman’s shutout win. It was Ted’s highlight of the season since by the time the post-season began most of the regulars were back and he was limited to late-inning defense work. Here he poses at Shea, looking remarkably like – as a poster from the Mets fan page points out – an actor from “Mission: Impossible”, a big show back then.

Teodoro Martinez grew up in the Dominican Republic and was signed by the Mets in October ’66 after being spotted in a summer league back home. In his first year of ’67 he hit .216 in Rookie ball before upping his average to .248 in A ball. In a fitting prelude to his career up top he got starting time at second, short, and third. After the season he was selected by Houston in the minor league draft but after not making the cut out of spring training the next year the Mets took him back. That year he settled at shortstop as he hit .301 between a couple Single A teams. In ’69 he moved up to Double A where he hit pretty well for a shortstop and in ’70 he had his best minor season at Triple A Tidewater with his .306, nine triples, and 13 stolen bases. That year he got his debut in NY when Ken Boswell went down for a few games with an injury. After starting off the ’71 season with a .297 in Tidewater he was promoted to the Mets that summer for good.

Martinez had an admirable rookie year in ’71 as he spelled Bud Harrelson at shortstop and Boswell at second and put up a .288 average despite limited plate time. He was a free swinger at the plate, struck out a bit much, and rarely walked, which would hurt his ability to get more time. But his versatility in the field made him necessary so in ’72 when both Boswell and Harrelson were dogged by injuries and poor averages, Ted got a bunch of starts, including some in the outfield. Offensively he led the team in triples and finished third in stolen bases and had his best year in the field with only one error in 47 games at second and three in 42 games at shortstop. After the excitement of ’73, ’74 was a big downer as there was no stretch run magic. Ted, though, got his most time in the line-up that year and though his average tumbled a bunch and his defense was not so hot, he put up by far his best RBI total with 43. After the year he was traded to the Cards for Jack Heidemann and Mike Vail.

After getting into a few games in the outfield for the Cards, Martinez was sent to Oakland in May of ’75 for pitcher Mike Barlow and a minor leaguer. Fresh off their three straight Series titles the A’s were a bit transitional in ’75 due to the retirement of Dick Green and the loss of Catfish Hunter to free agency. Ted specialized in late-inning work across the infield and did a nice job defensively with zero errors at second and third. He then repeated that role in the playoffs. But the following May he was released and he was shortly thereafter signed by Cincinnati for whom he put in the rest of the season at Triple A where he hit .255 with 25 stolen bases while playing principally in the outfield. That December of ’76 he was plucked by LA in the Rule 5 draft and the next three years he would reprise his role with the Mets. Ted wouldn’t see too much plate time since his work backing up second, short, and third was mostly late-inning stuff. But he did a pretty good job on offense, hitting a combined .280 over that period. Twice he played on pennant winners, though he didn’t see any post-season action. He was released shortly into the ’80 season and he returned to the DR to coach the next couple seasons. Then in ’82 he began a three-year run in the Mexican League, two with Campeche and his final one with Tabasco. Ted finished up top with a .240 average and put in 282 games at shortstop, 168 at second, 97 at third, and 54 in the outfield. He got no at bats in the post-season. In the minors he hit .274.

Martinez played winter ball in the DR and in Puerto Rico during much of his career and after his playing career ended he returned home where he has since both coached and managed baseball, though I’ve been unable to find any specifics.


The parenthetical name returns as do a couple star bullets alluded to above. A funny story about Ted comes via Kiner’s Korner, the old Mets post-game show hosted by Ralph Kiner. Apparently when Ted first came up in spring training he was unaware that hotel accommodations were made for the players and he lived outside for his first few days of camp. Funny for us I guess, but not so great for him. Here is a shot of Greg Morris, the actor Ted resembled:


Minus Ted’s near-unibrow it is a pretty close resemblance.

For the ’76 baseball centennial the Mets offered the team’s ’69 World Series victory over the Orioles. That was a pretty good one considering the team’s history up to that point. Outside of any AL team at the top of the 20th century, it was the quickest a team was a Series champ in its existence. The Mets surprised the crap out of the mighty O’s, a team that had won 109 games during the regular season and then swept the Twins in the playoffs. But NY had won 100 themselves and between Donn Clendenon’s slugging (a 1.071 average), some huge outfield defensive plays (Swoboda and Agee), immaculate pitching (a 1.80 team ERA), and some luck (that J.C. Martin bunt was a killer), everything worked and the Mets were the darlings of NY for once.

Another quick hook-up results from another Hall of Famer:

1. Martinez and Willie Mays ’72 to ’73 Mets;
2. Mays and Steve Stone ’71 to ’72 Giants.

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