The La Salle Club added nine players to its Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday night, highlighted by Buck Martinez. The former Elk Grove High School and Sacramento City College star played seventeen years in the Show for the Kansas City Royals (1969 – 1978), Milwaukee Brewers (1978 – 1980) and Toronto Blue Jays (1981 – 1986) , where he is the play-by-play announcer for the team.
Martinez was the keynote speaker at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, where he mesmerized the crowd with stories from his playing days in the big leagues. Martinez is perhaps best known for having participated in the only 9-2-7-2 double play in Major League Baseball history.
As a catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1985, Martinez was slammed to the ground following a close play at the plate. Martinez held onto the ball to tag Seattle’s Phil Bradley, but the collision was costly. Martinez suffered a broken leg and a dislocated ankle, but that didn’t stop him from trying to gun down the Mariners’ Gorman Thomas at third base. The hobbled catcher threw from a prone position but the ball sailed into left field. Thomas headed for home where Martinez miraculously caught the ball and swiped the runner with a clean tag to complete a 9-2-7-2 double play that has never since been repeated.
He has a lifetime of baseball memories, but Martinez told me one of his greatest thrills came in 2002 when he was managing the Blue Jays. It was during spring training and Martinez elected to put his own son Casey into the lineup. “He took three straight pitches right down the center of the plate,” Martinez told me. “It was a strikeout, but at least I got to see my son have an at bat.”
Not many fathers can say they were in the dugout, watching a son bat against Major League pitching.
The La Salle Club, headed up by Hall of Fame chairman Joe McNamara, inducted eight other players into Sacramento history, including Rowland Office, the McClatchy High School stand out who had a 29 game hitting streak for the Atlanta Braves, second longest in club history. Other honorees: Carl Boyer, Don Hammitt, Mike Baldwin, Oscar Broyer, Larry Wolfe, Curtis Brown and Scratch DeFazio.
While at the ceremonies, I had a chance to catch up with good friend Ron Hyde, my former colleague at KCRA 3.
Ron is retired from broadcasting but stays active covering sports, especially those involving his three children.
Also in attendance was Leron Lee, a 2012 La Salle Club Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.
Lee was a Grant High School star and a #1 draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals. He played in the Majors for for the Cardinals, Padres, Indians and Dodgers before launching a successful baseball career in Japan, where he still holds the record for highest career batting average (.320) for players with at least 4,000 at bats. He told me the Japanese players are well trained in the fundamentals of baseball. While there he would prepare by hitting 500 to 700 balls a day, which helped make him a more consistent hitter.
Leron’s brother Leon Lee also played with him in Japan. Leon was inducted into the La Salle Club Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013 and is the father of former Major Leaguer Derrek Lee, who graduated from El Camino High School (along with KCRA’s Lisa Gonzales).
Derrek Lee would go on to play first base for the San Diego Padres, Florida Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. Lee’s 2003 Marlins team beat the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series. Derrek Lee will undoubtedly be a future Hall of Famer at the La Salle Club.