Buck Martinez

This article was written by Curt Smith

Some baseball players evoke a position. Recall catcher Mickey Cochrane. Others define managing: Connie Mack comes to mind. Many broadcast as a color analyst or play-by-play man, like Bob Uecker and Bob Costas. Few have performed all of the above at one time or another as well as the Blue Jays’ John Albert “Buck” Martinez, for whom the 2021 season marked his 53rd big-league year.

Before Buck became a Canadian fixture, his youth had a distinctly American lilt. According to Martinez, mother Shirley once served in the Women’s Army Corps and made the cover of Stars and Stripes newspaper.1 On December 7, 1941, his father John, a miner, was at Pearl Harbor in the midst of building a huge underground storage area to house fuel for the US Navy. Completing it, he enlisted in the Army in 1942.2

Buck was born on November 7, 1948, in Redding, California. He still has a picture of himself, at age 3, in a baseball uniform, near the site where his dad later built a diamond in their back yard. Martinez was in grammar school before learning that his real name was John, the sobriquet Buck hailing his Native American heritage as an enrolled member of Northern California’s Karuk Tribe.3 By 10, the family in South Sacramento, he played on Parkway Little League and Southgate Babe Ruth teams, enamored of the pastime from the start.4

At nearby Elk Grove, Martinez was a three-year All-Conference choice, batting .512 as a senior. In 1966, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound right-handed catcher graduated from high school. Not immediately drafted by a big-league team, he got an associate of arts degree at Sacramento City College and studied at Sacramento State University. Meanwhile, Buck was signed by the Phillies as a 1967 amateur free agent, taken by the Astros in the December 1968 Rule 5 draft, and dealt later that month to Kansas City.5

The 1969 Royals began as an American League expansion team, Martinez debuting in the major leagues that June 18 at 20. Through 1977, his last year in Kansas City, Buck socked 13 homers, knocked in 104 runs, and averaged .222, including .333 in the then-best-of-five 1976 League Championship Series. By then, Martinez had met his future wife, Arlene, in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1971 – Buck there for winter baseball; she, an American Airlines attendant, on vacation.6

“We had dinner, exchanged phone numbers, but then sort of lost touch for a few years,” said Buck.7 In 1974 they met again, began dating, and wed on July 14, 1975. In 1977, son Casey was born, later becoming a 47th-round pick by Toronto in the 2000 first-year player draft. A catcher like his father, he reached the Blue Jays’ Triple-A Syracuse affiliate by 2001, his four-year playing career ending in the Phillies system in 2003.

Daily, baseball teaches humility. For Buck, November 1976 taught life’s fragility. Arlene told him she was expecting their first child on the same day Martinez was shot in the left eye while hunting. After nine hours of surgery for a detached retina, his vision devolved from 20/15 to 20/250. “I went from playoff catcher to fourth-string catcher,” he said, drolly, though the incident was no laughing matter. Martinez “needed to wear a contact lens in his left eye from then on,” read the Karuk Newsletter.8

As a catcher, Buck upheld several long-held beliefs. One was the position’s perceived weak-hitting bent. Thrice traded, Joe Garagiola, a .257 hitter from 1946 to ’54, played for half of the then-eight National League clubs.9 “I thought I was modeling uniforms,” he joked.10 Martinez may have felt that, too. On December 8, 1977, the Royals shipped him to St. Louis, which that day sent Buck to Milwaukee. On May 10, 1981, he was dealt again – to Toronto, for which he hit a career .222 but forged a single-year fielding percentage as high as .995. 

Buck also affirmed catching’s need to hang tough, “knocked out two or three times in collisions at home plate,” he told CBS Sports.11 In his first big-league start, Martinez collided with and tagged out the Twins’ Bob Allison at the plate. “I threw the ball to third base, and I collapsed and I was unconscious. The trainers came out and gave me smelling salts, and I actually hit my first major-league home run in the next half-inning.”12

At this point, Toronto still lacked a big-league franchise, Canada’s largest city awarded an AL expansion team in March 1976.13  “A nationwide contest chose the name Blue Jays. Fans came to our games from every province,” Martinez said. “And we were aware of what we represented to the country.”14 The team’s tricolor insignia fluttered in every province, even in the Montreal Expos’ Quebec.

The Blue Jays’ April 7, 1977, first opener remains parts fact and fable. Snow fell. “On the shores of Lake Ontario,” Buck said, “people sat on aluminum chairs, the wind in force [wind-chill hit 10 degrees Fahrenheit]. Fans bundled up all year. So Canadian!15 The Jays beat Chicago, 9-5, before an overflow 44,649 in a 43,737-seat baseball capacity site. Doug Ault homered twice, becoming the club’s first legend.16 

In 1977 Buck’s first visit to Toronto with the Royals, he saw how Exhibition Stadium resembled a “long, college football-style facility … converted for baseball use.” Seats behind the plate and down each line “were really glorified bleachers.” A left- to left-center-field football grandstand boasted the joint’s “only covered seats.”17 In right field, a chain-link fence separated the outfield and vast “dead area,” said Martinez. Behind it loomed a scoreboard, “far away from everything in the opposite end zone.”18    

Built on the Canadian National Exhibition’s 350-acre fairgrounds, the makeshift faux grass park (née CNE Stadium) flanked “landscaped gardens, an amusement park, restaurants and concert facilities.”19 Frisbees and picnicking lent a down-home feel. A block away Lake Ontario brandished boats – and seagulls. Dave Winfield’s 1983 warm-up throw accidentally killed one, prompting the Yankees outfielder’s arrest.20

The first-year team drew 1,701,052, but lost 107 games. Between halves of the seventh inning, Exhibition crowds stood and stretched, yet invariably clapped softly – said Martinez, “the quietest in the league.”21 Once his wife, sitting with other Blue Jays wives, stood and implored spectators, “Come on, holler!”22 To Martinez, noting how the park didn’t sell beer, the stillness contrasted with his prior club in Milwaukee, where beer was appetizer, main course, and dessert.

“At first there was little reason to listen [or attend],” conceded 1977-2004 radio voice Tom Cheek, “except for the sheer novelty of big-league ball.”23 Blue Jays wireless/TV forged another. From birth, much of Canada has been isolated. The Jays wove a thread. Former Mets and Orioles Voice Gary Thorne once recalled how “Somewhere in a small town in the country [Canada or America], when you talked about the team, the broadcaster pictured the game for them night after night”24 – mic men like Cheek their link to the club. 

Other links became Tom’s 1977-81 and 1981-2005 partners Early Wynn and Jerry Howarth, respectively – and eventually Martinez. As a player, Buck had aired 1982 World Series, LCS, and All-Star Game color commentary on the Telemedia Radio Network across Canada, Cheek on play-by-play.25 Martinez also frequently appeared on Canada’s The Sports Network (TSN) television. “Up ’til about then I hadn’t really thought of retiring or announcing,” Buck said. He might not have, if not for a play that begs credulity, even now.26

Martinez’s second career unfolded from a July 9, 1985, match in Seattle’s Kingdome. Buck started in his frequent role as a reserve or platoon catcher to Ernie Whitt, as he had to the Royals’ Darrell Porter and Brewers’ Ted Simmons, said SABR’s David Firstman.27 In the third inning, a Ripleys Believe It or Not! moment occurred that led Jays vice president Bobby Mattick, a 1938-40 Cubs and 1941-42 Reds infielder, to hail “the greatest baseball play I’d ever seen.”28

The Mariners’ Phil Bradley led off by singling. With one out, pitcher Tom Filer balked him to second base. Gorman Thomas then singled to right field, Jesse Barfield – to Firstman, “possessor of one of the finest outfield arms in history” – charging the ball and “uncork[ing] a laser toward the plate.”29 The throw, slightly up the third-base line, arrived as Bradley crashed into Martinez and knocked him on his back in the right-hand batter’s box. Somehow, he held the ball for the out, but Buck’s spikes caught in the ground and “two bones came dislocated out of the ankle socket and in fact, I broke the fibula – the small leg bone – up to my knee,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Midday.30

At first Martinez thought that his leg was asleep. “There was no pain involved, but I couldn’t move my leg. I couldn’t rely on it at all to prop me up or move about anymore. It was dead.”31 As play continued, Buck, sitting but unable to stand, saw Thomas running between second and third base and threw toward third baseman Garth Iorg, the toss sailing into left field. Picking it up, George Bell fired to the plate. Martinez nabbed the ball as the 210-pound Thomas plowed homeward, tried to score standing up, but instead felt the prostrate Buck’s tag to complete a surreal 9-2-7-2 double play.   

Out for the season, Martinez missed the Jays’ LCS loss to Kansas City, his mental pain as bad as physical, but wrote a book, From Worst to First: The Toronto Blue Jays in 1985.32 After Buck’s collision, wrote ESPN senior writer Tim Kurkjian, “he endured five months of 50 hours a week rehab just so he could play one more year for the Blue Jays at age 37.”33 In 1986 he hit .181 in 81 games, penned his second tome, The Last Out: The Toronto Blue Jays in 1986, and that December called its title “my last out as a player, the way it looks right now.”34

In 1981-86, Martinez had graced up to 102 games (1984), hit as many as 10 homers (1982 and 1983), batted as high as .253 (1983), and made only two errors in each of 1981, 1984, 1985, and 1986. Buck’s career featured 1,049 games, 58 homers, 321 RBIs, a .225 batting average – his offensive peak the early 1980s – and a .984 fielding percentage. Torn, wanting to play again, Martinez thought he could. Blue Jays President Paul Beeston didn’t, thinking the injury had dimmed Buck’s skill. They met prior to the 1987 season, Beeston asking, “Albert, you want to do TV?” as a Jays “colour commentator” on TSN.35

Buck’s wife, his agent and future actress, suggested he try, saying, “You can’t play anymore. This is a great opportunity.”36 Direct, she was correct. Martinez signed with TSN, utilizing, as Kurkjian wrote, what a makeup woman termed his “great [facial] base” and “a marvelous tone.”37 Buck began a new life by practicing his delivery on the roof of the Jays’ then-spring training park, Grant Field, in Dunedin, Florida. On the first-day ride home, he heard the tape and thought, “This is awful. I’m rotten.”38 Jerry Howarth added, “[Buck] always wanted to get better,” amenable to criticism.39

Initially, Arlene told him, “You’re trying to be [actor] Ted Knight,” the formalized comic character Ted Baxter on TV’s The Mary Tyler Moore Show. “Just be yourself.”40 She also persuaded him to take speech and acting classes. Ida Weedle, a speech pathologist, “got me [Buck] to start finishing my words.”41 Martinez’s 1987-89 partner was play-by-play’s Fergie Olver,42 an ex-minor league and semipro Western Baseball League outfielder turned co-host of a CTV Television children’s show, Just Like Mom, with then-wife Catherine Swing. Steadily improving, Buck never looked back.

On May 28, 1989, the Blue Jays bade Exhibition adieu: Toronto 7, White Sox 5. In 1963 John F. Kennedy recalled how as a boy the Irish writer Frank O’Connor and his friends would come to an arched wall while exploring the countryside. If it seemed too high or hard to hurdle, they removed their caps, flung them over the wall, and had to follow.43 Domed stadiums kept out bad weather. Yet fans wanted to feel the sun and breeze. SkyDome became a solution, its first game June 5: the world’s only stadium with a fully retractable roof,44 which flung caps over the future, making baseball follow.

The 50,016-seat, five-tiered orb housed the 1991-92-93 AL East and 1992-93 World Series titlist. Its new digs helped lure a 1993 still-league record (as of 2022) 4,057,947 gate, averaging 50,098 per date. At SkyDome, Jim Hughson became TSN’s Blue Jays play-by-play man in 1990, replacing Olver. He and Buck teamed through 1994, the British Columbia native calling each 1991-93 Jays division-clinching title.45 (In 1995-2001, Toronto-born Dan Shulman succeeded him.) Martinez added 1994-95’s ABC/NBC The Baseball Network – and 1992-2000’s and 2002-05’s ESPN, its coverage of Cal Ripken Jr.’s record-breaking 2,131st straight game taking a 1995 Sports Emmy Award.46

In early 2000 ESPN enlarged Martinez’s portfolio by hiring him for Baseball Tonight. “His first appearance looked like it could have been his 500th, it was that seamless,” wrote Tim Kurkjian. Buck wasn’t pleased with his preparation, thinking, “That won’t happen again.” It didn’t. “One night,” Tim noted, “he did a Blue Jays game on TSN, but because the game ran late, he missed his flight to Connecticut for a Sunday Baseball Today show.”47 Martinez drove 500 miles from Toronto to ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut, home, “using his cell phone for script updates and arriving 10 minutes before airtime.” Buck minimized the effort, saying, “It was my job.”48

That year attendance fell to 1,819,919,49 helping induce another Martinez career – his November 3 hiring to replace Jim Fregosi as 2001 Jays skipper despite a lack of even coaching experience. Buck’s sole managerial stint had been with “Martinez’s Marauders” at the 1995-96 Blue Jays’ Fantasy Camp. Former Padres and Astros skipper Preston Gomez told him, “Remember, the ball looks really small up in the booth. But down on the field, the ball is really big.”50 The populace cheered. Drivers left their cabs in the middle of the street to thank him. Martinez recalled season-ticket holders saying they hadn’t been “so excited in five years.”51

After Buck’s signing, Kurkjian observed that “even as a player, [Martinez] was the guy from whom many of the Blue Jays players sought advice and went to,” not “some self-infatuated gasbag who believes the team revolves around him.”52 GM Gord Ash said, “Sports is a people business. It’s a business of communication and Buck is an excellent communicator.”53 He wrote letters to 32 players, telling them “he thought they could make up the five games that kept them from the [2000] playoffs.”54 Martinez phoned several personally, also speaking with big-league players-turned-managers Cookie Rojas, Don Zimmer, and, most famously, Joe Torre.55

Sadly, the 2001 Jays finished 80-82, had a home game postponed by metal siding and insulation falling from the roof,56 and braved an adverse currency exchange rate: revenue in Canadian dollars, salaries in more costly US dollars. On June 3, 2002, the 20-33 Jays ditched Buck for minor-league skipper Carlos Tosca. “I don’t know if [he] even knows what his philosophy or style is because he hasn’t had a lot of time to manage,” said new GM J.P. Ricciardi. “It’s not so much the wins, the losses at this point, it’s more the leadership.”57 Of Martinez he told CBC: “He’s a class act. He handled this in a very professional manner.”58 Said Buck: “Gord Ash had been fired after my first season, never a good sign. I made mistakes, but … it made possible all that’s happened since.”59            

Martinez managed Team USA in the 2006 inaugural World Baseball Classic, airing the next WBC tournaments in 2009, 2013, and 2017.60 In 2003-09, Buck did Baltimore Orioles color with play-by-play’s Jim Hunter, then Gary Thorne, on TV’s Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), taking a second Emmy for Best Analyst, Regional Sports Network.61 He added TBS’s 2008-09 postseason and Sunday Afternoon Baseball color with Chip Caray – and co-hosted 2005-09 XM Radio’s Baseball This Morning; in 2009 substituted for the ill Jerry Remy on the Red Sox’ New England Sports Network (NESN); and did the 2016-20 World Series and All-Star Game for MLB International.  

In 2010, returning to the Jays, Martinez did play-by-play for 110 games on Canada’s Rogers Sportsnet cable TV network, replacing Jamie Campbell,62 and was hired to host the new pregame Blue Jays Central.63 “I think it’s a different challenge for me,” Buck said. “Obviously, it’s a different role but because I’ve been blessed with so many play-by-play partners – Tom Cheek, [previously noted] Jim Hughson, and Dan Shulman and the guys at ESPN – I think I can take something from all of them.”64

By now, Jays radio/TV headliners largely differed from a decade earlier. In 2001 Cheek received the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Jack Graney Award, named for the first Canadian major-league voice.65 Tom broadcast 4,306 consecutive games, the streak ending with his father’s death in 2004. Ten days later, he braved brain tumor surgery on his 65th birthday.66 Cancer returned that offseason, demanding further treatment. On Opening Day 2005, Cheek aired an inning in person on the wireless at Tampa Bay, near his Florida home. 

A nation grieved Tom’s October 9 death at 66, ending the beloved “Tom and Jerry [Howarth] Show.” In 2013 he posthumously became the 37th annual recipient of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Ford C. Frick Award for “broadcast excellence.”67 Martinez recalled, “He was the voice and face of the Blue Jays.”68 Cheek often said, “Give me music with a message.”69 His message – inspiring other Toronto mic men – was that knowing baseball’s heart could make its music soar.

Shulman, for instance, the first Canadian named National Sportscaster of the Year by the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters and a 2020 Graney Award recipient, buoyed 2002-17 ESPN TV and 2016- Sportsnet Jays play-by-play with Buck.70 In 1993 another contemporary, Pat Tabler, joined TSN’s Baseball Tonight after a 12-year playing career.71 Hired by Sportsnet in 2005, a decade later he inked an extension with Martinez through 2019 – “our soundtrack to a season of strikeouts, stolen bases, and home runs,” said network vice president Rob Corte.72

Increasingly, their club bounced between poles. In 2003 Roy Halladay’s 22-7 holiday  earned a Cy Young Award. The ’04-05ers then flunked .500. In 2005 SkyDome was renamed the Rogers Centre after its purchase by Jays owner Rogers Communications. Next season five Blue Jays made the All-Star team – the most since 1993. In 2008 nostalgia bloomed, 1989-1997 skipper Cito Gaston rehired to manage. Halladay won his 129th Jays game, behind only another big-game pitcher Dave Stieb’s 175. 

On October 3, 2009, Ricciardi was ditched for assistant general manager Alex Anthopoulos, Toronto having missed the playoffs in J.P.’s eight years as GM.73 Next season the Blue Jays hit a franchise-high 257 home runs: Like 2000, seven smacked 20 or more, José Bautista (54) the 26th player with 50 or more.74 “I was marking my scoreboard when suddenly I looked up to see the ball clearing the fence,” said a surprised Martinez. “All I could say was, ‘Fifty!’”75 Halladay moved to Philadelphia, retiring in 2013 after signing a ceremonial one-day Toronto pact.76 

At his 2015-19 Sportsnet signing, Buck evoked 2010: “[Then] I stepped into the unknown as the play-by-play guy but now, looking ahead for the next five years, I couldn’t be happier.” Reader critique included “Buck is a boring parrot” to “He’s [equal to] Vin Scully.”77 Ending North America’s longest active professional sports playoff drought, the ’15 Jays took the AL East and erased Texas’s 2-0 best-of-five Division Series lead on Bautista’s last-game three-run homer succeeded by an “epic bat flip”78 – to some, violating an unwritten code against disparaging the other team.79

In the melee’s wake, benches twice cleared and garbage littered the Rogers Centre field. Toronto next advanced to the LCS, Game Six drawing Sportsnet’s then-all-time largest audience – 5.12 million viewers for Kansas City’s Game Six-clinching triumph.80 On May 15, 2016, a pitch by the Rangers’ Matt Bush hit José to repay his prior year bat flip. In turn, the Jays’ slugger illegally slid into infielder Rougned Odor, who slugged Bautista in the jaw to start the first of two more brawls.81    

On October 4 Toronto met Baltimore in the league’s wild-card game. An average audience of 4.02 million viewers eyed Sportsnet’s most-watched 2016 telecast, Edwin Encarnacion’s three-run 11th-inning homer sealing a 5-2 Jays triumph.82 Implausibly, almost as many Canadians as Americans watched, despite the huge disparity in population: an estimated 36,379,574 in Canada vs. the United States’ 324,738,713.83 Toronto again beat Texas in the Division Series before losing the LCS to Cleveland.

Thirty years earlier Martinez had released The Last Out: The Toronto Blue Jays in 1986. In 2016 he issued his third book, Change Up: How to Make the Great Game of Baseball Even Better.84 “Current players make much more money than he did behind the plate,” said CBC Sports, “but [Buck] thinks they’re the ones missing out” – in part because money “has displaced team unity as the heart of baseball – and the spirit of the game has suffered as a result.” How to revive it? Martinez had a thought.

“The money being made today is great,” he began.85 In his first year in Kansas City, Buck had made  $10,000. In 2021, said Statista, the big leagues’ average yearly wage was $4.17 million.86 “I don’t begrudge the players, most of ’em now a mini-corporation,” Martinez said. “It’s just that when you get more financially secure, you get more independent – it’s a natural progression. That’s why guys today miss a lot of what we had.”87

Playing, he said, “we lived in the same spring training complex, had barbecues on the beach, most of us with only one car, so we car-pooled to the park. Our wives baby-sat for each other’s kids. We looked after each other.” Come April, “we lived in the same apartment complex – a place near Exhibition Stadium named the Palace Pier.” Friendship fueled success “because you don’t want to let your friends down.”88 Today, money made that feeling hard.

To Martinez, former Yankees captain Derek Jeter showed how money did not negate the reason “we played the game. Derek was in love with baseball, demanding respect from players for it.”89 After teammate Robinson Cano “had a great game,” he sat reading a paper at his locker while giving an interview. Jeter told him, “We don’t treat people like that in this clubhouse.” Cano never read papers again, talking to a reporter.90

“Whenever I’d see Derek, he was messing with the guys, a great sense of humor,”91 Buck continued. Chemistry was key – in or beneath the booth. He and Pat Tabler met at 3:30 before a night game “to talk about what we wanted to note,” letting “one [broadcaster] know where the other was going before he said a word.” It helped them accent how one player’s strengths could enhance another’s, “showing your audience in advance what they are.”92

In 2017 polarity continued. Steve Pearce belted grand slams three days apart. Halladay was killed in a plane crash. Next season Tampa Bay bench coach Charlie Montoyo became the Blue Jays skipper. In 2019 several second-generation players made the team: Bo Bichette (his father, Dante), Cavan Biggio (Craig), and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Sr.)93 A year later Halladay made Cooperstown. The Covid-19 virus forced the Jays to move most SkyDome games to Triple-A outlet Buffalo’s home ballpark, Sahlen Field. 

In 2020 Martinez was named president of a group founded in 1986 by former big-league players, especially 1991 Frick honoree Joe Garagiola: the Baseball Assistance Team.94 At BAT’s birth, the average major-league salary was $412,520.95 “One pitcher didn’t have the money to bury an 11-year-old son. A former Dodger had to consider a raffle to afford an amputated leg,” Joe said. “There was no pension then to help.”96 BAT paid bills, bought insurance, preserved dignity: for Buck, a natural evolution.

In 2021 the Karuk Tribe descendant also went to bat for the Indigenous people “[who] did many great things that still aren’t recognized as part of the overall culture of Native Americans,” said Buck. He voiced video biographies for The Indigenous Sports Heroes Education Experience, a “multi-platform, web-based book, curriculum and celebration of 14 Indigenous Hall of Famers” from Colette Bourgonje and Bill Isaacs to Chief Wilton Littlechild and Bryan Trottier, available to teachers and students from kindergarten to grade 12.97

That July 30, the Jays returned to Rogers Centre from Covid-19-dictated games in Dunedin and Buffalo. Robbie Ray became their fourth Cy Young Award pitcher, joining Pat Hentgen, Stieb, and Halladay. Toronto’s power was as potent: eight homers in a  game and a team and big-league season record 262. In 2021, Guerrero clubbed 48 to lead a franchise-tying seven Jays who for a third time hit 20 or more. Others: Marcus Semien, Teoscar Hernandez, Bichette, George Springer, Randal Grichuk, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.98

Each Blue Jay helped fashion a 91-71 record, one game behind the Red Sox and Yankees in a wild last-week AL wild-card race. Since 1977 interest in the club has rarely failed, as John F. Kennedy said, to “throw [its] cap over” Exhibition Stadium’s and Rogers Centre’s “wall.”99 A reason is the man who as of 2021 had spent 17 years playing, two managing, and 34 in the booth.

Early in 2022, Buck was diagnosed with cancer, leaving the Blue Jays broadcast booth. “I’m grateful for a tremendous medical team, who has given me great optimism that I will come through this with flying colours,”100 Martinez said, hoping to rejoin Sportsnet later in the year. Until then, Buck would be “watching from the sidelines.”

Likely, he took solace from past experience, where good fortune had followed bad. After all, the 1985 collision that broke a small leg bone may have been the best break of Buck Martinez’s career.


I wish to thank the sources cited under “Interviews by author,” notably Buck Martinez. Grateful appreciation is made to reprint all play-by-play and color radio text courtesy of The Miley Collection. In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, most especially the Society for American Baseball Research, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org websites, box scores, player, season, and team pages, batting and pitching logs, and other material relevant to this history. FanGraphs.com provided statistical information. Beyond the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted:


Elliott, Bob. If These Walls Could Talk: Toronto Blue Jays: Stories from the Toronto Blue Jays Dugout, Locker Room, and Press Box (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2020).

Martinez, Buck. From Worst to First: The Toronto Blue Jays in 1985 (Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1985).

Martinez. The Last Out: The Toronto Blue Jays in 1986 (Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1986).


Martinez, with Dan Robson. Change Up: How to Make the Great Game of Baseball Even Better (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2016).

O’Connell, Kevin, and Josh Pahigian. The Ultimate Baseball Trip: A Fans Guide to  Major League Stadiums (Guilford, Connecticut: Lyons Press, 2012).


Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy 1963 (Washington, D.C.: Office of Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration, 1964).


Shea, Stuart. Gary Gillette (ed.) Calling the Game: Baseball Broadcasting from 1920 to the Present (Phoenix: Society for American Baseball Research, 2015).

Ward, Geoffrey C. Baseball: An Illustrated History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994).



The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Toronto Star, and Toronto Sun have been primary sources of information about Buck Martinez and his playing, managing, and broadcasting career. Other key sources include the Baltimore Sun, Kansas City Star, and USA Today.


Interviews by author

Tom Cheek, 1994 and 2002.

Joe Garagiola, 1993.

Jerry Howarth, 2009.

Tim Kurkjian, 2010.

Buck Martinez, 2022.

Dan Shulman, 2009.

Gary Thorne, 2010.


1 Buck Martinez interview, January 2022.

2 Martinez interview, 2022.

3 Martinez interview.

4 Karuk Newsletter, Spring 2017, 18. https://www.karuk.us/images/docs/newsletters/2017_Spring_Newsletter.pdf.

5 Martinez interview.

6 https://dodoodad.com/buck-martinez/.

7 Martinez interview.

8 Karuk Newsletter, Spring 2017, 18.

9 Warren Corbett, “Joe Garagiola,” SABR BioProject. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/joe-garagiola/.

10 Warren Corbett, “Joe Garagiola.”

11 R.J. Anderson, “Buck Martinez, Who Says He Was ‘Knocked Out’ Many Times, Still Opposes Posey Rule,” CBS Sports.com, September 28, 2017. https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/buck-martinez-who-says-he-was-knocked-out-many-times-still-opposes-posey-rule/.

12 Anderson.

13 https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/toronto-blue-jays.

14 Martinez interview.

15 Martinez interview.

16 Ron Smith, The Ballpark Book: A Journey Through the Fields of Baseball Magic (St. Louis: The Sporting News, 2000), 294.

17 The Ballpark Book, 294.

18 Martinez interview.

19 The Ballpark Book, 294.

20 The Ballpark Book, 293.

21 Martinez interview.

22 Martinez interview.

23 Tom Cheek interview, 1994.

24 Gary Thorne interview, 2010.

25 Martinez interview.

26 Martinez interview.

27 David Firstman, “July 9, 1985: Catcher Buck Martinez Tags Out Two Baserunners on Same Play,” SABR Games Project. https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/july-9-1985-catcher-buck-martinez-tags-out-two-baserunners-on-same-play/.

28 Tim Kurkjian, “Buck Martinez Is About to Take On a Brand-New Role – One He’s Been Rehearsing For His Whole Life,” ESPN.com. https://www.espn.com/espn/magazine/archives/news/story?page=magazine-20010122-article38.

29 David Firstman.

30 “Buck Martinez’s Broken Leg and His Journey into Broadcasting,” CBC Archives, January 6, 2019. https://www.cbc.ca/archives/buck-martinez-s-broken-leg-and-his-journey-into-broadcasting-1.4963392.

31 “Buck Martinez’s Broken Leg and His Journey into Broadcasting.”

32 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3746572-from-worst-to-first.

33 Kurkjian.

34 “Buck Martinez’s Broken Leg and His Journey into Broadcasting.”

35 Martinez interview.

36 Martinez interview.

37 Kurkjian.

38 Kurkjian.

39 Kurkjian.

40 Martinez interview.

41 Martinez interview.

42 https://www.liquisearch.com/buck_martinez/broadcasting.

43 https://www.markholan.org/archives/2810.

44 www.pbs.org/wgbh/buildingbig/wonder/structure/sky.html.

45 https://icehockey.fandom.com/wiki/Jim_Hughson.

46 “Blue Jays Broadcasters.” https://www.mlb.com/bluejays/team/broadcasters.

47 Kurkjian.

48 Kurkjian.

49 https://www.baseball-almanac.com/teams/toroatte.shtml#:~:text=Toronto%20Blue%20Jays%20Attendance%201977%20-%202020%20,%20A.L.%20Average%20%203%20more%20rows%20?msclkid=4da140dea57111ec8dac2f9a5f96cbd7.

50 Kurkjian.

51 Martinez interview.

52 Kurkjian.

53 Kurkjian.

54 Kurkjian. The deficit was actually 4½ games in 2000.

55 Kurkjian.

56 “SkyDome Roof Shreds,” CBC Sports, April 12, 2001. https://www.cbc.ca/sports/baseball/skydome-roof-shreds-1.277009.

57 Associated Press, “Martinez Fired During Second Season with Jays,” ESPN, June 4, 2002. https://a.espncdn.com/mlb/news/2002/0603/1390123.html.

58 “Blue Jays Fire Buck Martinez,” CBC Sports, June 4, 2002. https://www.cbc.ca/sports/baseball/blue-jays-fire-buck-martinez-1.349252.

59 Martinez interview.

60 “Blue Jays Broadcasters.”

61 “Blue Jays Broadcasters.”

62 Chris Zelkovich, “Sportsnet Hits a Homer in Landing Martinez,” Toronto Star, December 11, 2009. https://www.thestar.com/sports/baseball/2009/12/11/zelkovich_sportsnet_hits_a_homer_in_landing_martinez.html.

63 https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4368002/characters/nm7061962.

64 Chris Zelkovich, “Buck Martinez Returns as Blue Jays TV Announcer,” Toronto Star, December 10, 2009. https://www.thestar.com/sports/baseball/2009/12/10/buck_martinez_returns_as_blue_jays_tv_announcer.html.

65 “Tom Cheek,” Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. https://baseballhalloffame.ca/hall-of-famer/tom-cheek/.

66 “Tom Cheek.”

67 “Tom Cheek.”

68 Martinez interview.

69 Cheek interview, 1994.

70 “Blue Jays Broadcasters.”

71 “Blue Jays Broadcasters.”

72 Sportsnet staff, “Sportsnet Locks Up Blue Jays Broadcast Duo,” Sportsnet.ca, September 25, 2014. https://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/martinez-tabler-to-return-for-five-more-years/.

73 Associated Press, “Blue Jays Fire GM Ricciardi,” ESPN.com, October 3, 2009. https://www.espn.com/mlb/news/story?id=4528183.

74 “Jose Bautista Becomes First Player Since 2007 to Hit 50 Home Runs in One Season,” NESN.com, September 23, 2010. https://nesn.com/2010/09/jose-bautista-becomes-first-player-since-2007-to-hit-50-home-runs-in-one-season/.

75 Martinez interview.

76 Matt Snyder, “Roy Halladay Retires as a Blue Jay,” CBSports.com, December 9, 2013. https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/roy-halladay-retires-as-a-blue-jay/.

77 “Sportsnet Locks Up Blue Jays Broadcast Duo.”

78 Howie Kussoy, “Jose Bautista’s Epic Bat Flip Is Quite Polarizing,” New York Post, October 15, 2015. https://nypost.com/2015/10/15/jose-bautistas-epic-bat-flip-is-quite-polarizing/.

79 Kussoy.

80 Sportsnet, “5.12 Million Viewers Watch Blue Jays vs. Kansas City ALCS Game 6 on Sportsnet; Delivers Most-Watched Broadcast in Network History,” newswire.ca, October 26, 2015. https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/512-million-viewers-watch-blue-jays-vs-kansas-city-alcs-game-6-on-sportsnet-delivers-most-watched-broadcast-in-network-history-537260561.html.

81 SI Wire, “Watch: Blue Jays, Rangers Brawl after Takeout Slide,” www.si.com. May 15, 2016. https://www.si.com/mlb/2016/05/15/watch-blue-jays-rangers-brawl-after-takeout-slide.

82 Ian Campbell, “Sportsnet reporting big ratings win with Blue Jays wild card game.” Calgary CityNews, October 5, 2016. Sportsnet reporting big ratings win with Blue Jays wild card game | CityNews Calgary

83 Andrew Buckholtz, “Almost as Many Canadians as Americans Watched Jays-O’s Despite Population Difference,” AwfulAnnouncing.com, October 5, 2016. https://awfulannouncing.com/2016/almost-as-many-canadians-as-americans-watched-jays-os-despite-population-difference.html#.

84 CBC Radio, “Why Buck Martinez Feels Bad for Today’s Baseball Players,” cbc.ca, March 22, 2016. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-tuesday-march-22-2016-1.3501928/why-buck-martinez-feels-bad-for-today-s-baseball-players-1.3501932.

85 Martinez interview.

86 https://www.Statista.Com/Statistics/236213/Mean-Salary-Of-Players-In-Majpr-League-Baseball/#.

87 Martinez interview.

88 Martinez interview.

89 Martinez interview.

90 Martinez interview.

91 Martinez interview.

92 Martinez interview.

93 Joon Lee, “Why Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio Are Ready for the Next Step,” ESPN.com, February 25, 2020. https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28711372/why-vladimir-guerrero-jr-bo-bichette-cavan-biggio-ready-next-step.

94 Associated Press, “Joe Garagiola, Ex-Player Turned Glib Broadcaster, Dies at 90,” Newschannel 5 Nashville, March 23, 2016. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/national/joe-garagiola-ex-player-turned-glib-broadcaster-dies-at-90#.

95 Edmund P. Edmonds, “MLB Minimum and Average Salaries, 1967-2012,” Notre Dame Law School, February 2, 2012. https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=baseball_salaries.

96 Joe Garagiola interview, 1993.

97 David Giddens, CBC Sports, “Indigenous Sports Heroes in the Classroom,” cbc.ca, August 9, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/sportslongform/entry/indigenous-sports-heroes-heading-to-the-classroom.

98 Laura Armstrong, “A Look at Blue Jays Season, by the Numbers, Will Make Fans Wonder Why the Team Didn’t Make the MLB Playoffs,” Toronto Star, October 4, 2021. https://www.thestar.com/sports/bluejays/2021/10/04/a-look-at-blue-jays-season-by-the-numbers-will-just-make-fans-wonder-why-the-team-didnt-make-the-mlb-playoffs.html#.

99 Mark Holan, “Remember J.F.K. – 3 – Caps Over Walls,” n.d. https://www.markholan.org/archives/2810.

100 https://www.aol.com/mlb-broadcaster-stepping-away-following-165556490.html.

Full Name

John Albert Martinez


November 7, 1948 at Redding, CA (USA)

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