Pro Perspective: Buck Martinez
Pro Perspective: Buck Martinez
- Kansas City Royals, 1969 – 1971, 1973 – 1977; Milwaukee Brewers, 1978 – 1980; Toronto Blue Jays, 1981 – 1986.
California Born and Bred
John “Buck” Martinez was born on November 7, 1948 in Redding, California.
Fun fact: Buck’s parents were both involved in World War II. His Mom was in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and his Dad was a combat engineer who fought in Europe. Pretty cool!
Buck grew up in California and attended Elk Grove High School. Interestingly, that school has gone on to produce 11 major leaguers.
After high school Buck played at the local community college named Sacramento City College. He also played college ball at both Sacramento State University and Southwest Missouri State.
In 1967, the Philadelphia Phillies selected Buck in the second round. He then bounced around between the Phillies, Astros and eventually the Royals organization.
After about two and a half seasons in the minors, Buck would go on to make his major league debut with the Royals in a June 1969 home game against the Oakland Athletics.
In the Big Leagues
With the exception of the 1972 season, Buck became a semi-regular backstop for the Royals through the 1977 season.
Although he didn’t have a high batting average, he developed a reputation as being a strong defensive player. Buck maintained a 0.975 fielding percentage behind the plate while with Kansas City.
In 1976 his Royals threatened the Yankees in the ALCS, but ultimately lost. In that series, Buck played in all five games and had a .333 batting average.
He would be traded in the 1977 offseason to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he would play for three seasons. Buck played on some pretty good Brewers teams those years, splitting time behind the plate with Charlie Moore.
Going North of the Border
The Brewers traded Buck to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1981. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Toronto would go on to become his Baseball home for many years thereafter!
Buck became a valuable member of six Blue Jays teams between 1981 and 1986. While with the Jays he split time behind the plate with Ernie Whitt.
Buck maintained his reputation as a solid defensive catcher, and even had two seasons in Toronto where he collected double digits in home runs.
In fact, Buck had arguably his best offensive season in 1983 when he hit .253/.337/.452 with 10 home runs and a 1.6 WAR.
Towards the end of his playing career, Buck was involved in a strange play that is definitely worth mentioning. The recap of that play is below, as written by the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame:
“One of his [Buck’s] most memorable, yet bizarre, games he ever played nearly ended his career. He broke his leg and severely dislocated his ankle in a home plate collision with the Seattle Mariners' Phil Bradley at the Kingdome. On the historic play, Buck actually tagged out 2 runners at home plate. After the collision, where Bradley was called out, Buck still attempted to throw out the advancing runner Gorman Thomas who was trying to go to third base. When the throw went into left field, Thomas tried to come home. However, he was tagged out by Buck who was sprawled-out while suffering a broken leg. He managed to catch the throw from teammate, George Bell, while laying on the ground: thus completing a 9–2–7–2 double play!”
If you’re interested, check out the video of this crazy play!
Broadcaster and Manager
Buck retired after the 1986 season. In his 17 season MLB career Buck appeared in over 1,000 games, collected 618 hits, 58 home runs, and maintained a career fielding percentage of .984 behind the plate.
Right after he hung up his cleats, Buck became a color analyst for the Blue Jays. He would remain affiliated with the Blue Jays through the 90s.
An exceptional broadcaster (and a household name to Baseball fans) Buck would also appear from time to time on ESPN. However, Buck stepped out of the broadcast booth in 2001 to become the manager for the Blue Jays.
Though the 2001 team started off good, the Blue Jays ended the season just below .500. Buck was fired just a third of the way into the 2002 season.
His last managerial stint was as the leader of Team USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
After leaving the Blue Jays in 2002, Buck joined the Baltimore Orioles broadcast team, where he would remain through the 2009 season.
In 2010, he went back to Toronto as a broadcaster for the Blue Jays, where he remains to this day.
Q&A with Buck Martinez
Buck Martinez is a former big league catcher with 17 seasons of MLB playing experience under his belt. He has played for or with multiple Baseball Hall of Famers, including Bobby Cox, George Brett, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor.
Buck is truly a Baseball man, as someone who has been around the game at the professional level for many decades now. He not only has been a player but a manager and a broadcaster.
I wrote Buck a few weeks ago seeking his feedback on my questions for catchers. He graciously replied to my questions, as detailed below.
Like all the others in our Pro Perspective series, I wanted to share Buck’s replies with readers in the hope that his perspective will provide value to catchers interested in improving their game.
Here are Buck’s responses to my questions, as you can also see in the below image.
Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the Major Leagues?
Answer: My favorite memory of playing in the major leagues was playing the New York Yankees in the 1976 ALCS. At the time the Series was only 5 games. We were a young team with George Brett, Hal McRae, Frank White, John Mayberry and we had grown up together in the Royals organization. It was a great Series - but we lost on the 1st pitch of the bottom of the 9th when Chris Chambliss hit a walk off HR off of Mark Littell.
Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?
Answer: The most important skill for a catcher is to make his pitcher think he is the best pitcher on the day he pitches - encourage, and teach each of your pitchers to earn their trust and let them know that you care about their success.
Question 3: If you could give only one piece of advice to young catchers hoping to make it to the next level, what would it be?
Answer: Practice your throwing everyday. I know base stealing isn't as prominent as it was in the 60's, 70's and 80's when I played. Baseball today doesn't require players to throw as much as we did. We took "infield" everyday and I threw batting practice to my teammates when I wasn't playing. If you look at every World Series, teams always have a good "defensive" catcher behind the plate. Practice your blocking, throwing and game calling.
Buck provides some good advice for catchers on both the soft and hard skills of catching. As a catcher, it’s incredibly important to support and build up your pitchers. Focus on being a good leader and motivator, and improving your skills in this area if needed.
It’s also important to develop a strong throwing arm, according to Buck. Take every opportunity to throw – and build up that strength – whether at home, at practice, or pre/post-game.
Thank You for Reading
We have a handful of additional Pro Perspectives to write, which we will post soon. Keep an eye out for them!
As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions.