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Monday, April 18, 2022

Blue Jays announcer Buck Martinez taking leave of absence after cancer diagnosis

Longtime Toronto Blue Jays announcer Buck Martinez is taking a leave of absence from the booth after being diagnosed with cancer. Martinez, 73, did not reveal how long he would be away from the team, but said he hoped to be back by the end of the 2022 MLB season.

Martinez announced his diagnosis and leave of absence in a statement Sunday. Martinez will begin his leave following Sunday’s game.

Martinez said doctors have “given me great optimism that I will come through this with flying colors.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 18, 2022 at 10:14 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: blue jays, buck martinez

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   1. Rally Posted: April 18, 2022 at 02:24 PM (#6072383)
Hope he gets a full recovery. He’s been a Blue Jay for most of the time I’ve followed baseball, in one role or another, starting in the early 80s.
   2. Snowboy Posted: April 18, 2022 at 06:09 PM (#6072426)
Buck's status in the Blue Jays family probably cannot be overstated.

He started in Toronto in 1981 as a veteran platooning catcher who could not hit. But neither could most of the young franchise at that time, and at least he was a good catcher for the staff, and had played previously for Kansas City and Milwaukee so he was a leader for new guys. He got his leg broken in a collision at home plate catching a bullet from Jesse Barfield, and then caught a second throw and tagged another runner before being carried off the field on a stretcher. 9-2-7-2

He played with the Jays until they started to round into form and won their first division in 1985, so he saw some good days, and played until 1986. He would probably still be a Jays legend if he had disappeared into retirement then, but instead he became a broadcaster and has been nightly on all our tv's since then. Except for a few years when he became Toronto's field manager (there was also a short period after that where he managed Team USA, and broadcasted for Baltimore, before returning to Toronto, and he has often moonlighted in the playoffs as commentator for international networks/feeds.)

So Buck Martinez is a baseball lifer, and he's been in the middle of the Blue Jays for a long time. Is he their soul? Some would say he is. He is certainly a franchise icon. Off the top of my head, similar to Hawk Harrelson except not as folksy or controversial. Maybe more like Johnny Pesky? Buck seems like a curious and interested person when a play is happening or someone else is talking, and he seems like a kind person. The other announcers choking up during the pregame show reading out his statement showed how much he means to the Toronto (Canadian) baseball community.

Buck is almost never critical of anyone on the air. Yes, he'll call something an error or a bad pitch, but he doesn't do it with insulting terms, and he doesn't pass judgements or make pronouncements about plays or players. So that's why two moments struck me in Sunday's broadcast, which will hopefully not be his last. On Saturday the home plate ump Jeff Nelson called a terrible game, and even worse it seemed tilted against one team. (It graded out as something like 86% Accuracy, the lowest score so far this year.) On the air Sunday Buck called out the performance. And during the game George Springer was called for catcher interference, and then a runner was called out, so the Jays went from two runners in scoring position and a pitcher who couldn't find the zone to three out. It was a bogus call, and Buck did something he never does: he called it out as a bad umpire call, and he never does that.

The broadcast didn't feel like a victory lap, or a guest booth appearance. Buck was his usual professional self, he was all business and doing proper commentary. But the second thing that was slightly different about the broadcast was that Buck was occasionally slightly reflective (at one point he told a self-deprecating story about George Bell's opinion of his hitting,) and Dan Shulman sensed an opportunity so he asked about Alek Manoah's slider compared to others that Buck might have seen or caught, for example Dave Stieb? There was a slight pause. I could imagine Buck scowling at Dan {you know I don't like to talk about myself, and you know I don't make pronouncements} but then deciding to let loose on maybe his last day. "You know, Dan, Alek has a really good slider going today, but nobody ever had a slider like Dave Stieb. At least, not from where I was, trying to catch it. When it started to spin, it was like it actually started to pick up speed. Nobody, and I mean nobody, had a slider like Dave Stieb."

Get well, Buck. See you again soon at the ballpark, and in our living rooms.
   3. John Northey Posted: April 18, 2022 at 08:57 PM (#6072445)
I liked that bit Buck did about Stieb. Too many today have no idea how good he was back then. He really should've had 2 or 3 Cy Young awards, and today he would've but back then it was wins/wins/wins. With a tiny bit of luck he'd have had 3 or 4 no hitters (3 lost with 2 out in the 9th), 3 Cy Youngs, and not blown his arm out in 1992 right as the Jays were about to win the World Series at long last. Sigh.
   4. John Northey Posted: April 18, 2022 at 08:58 PM (#6072447)
Bottom line is that it is sad that Buck has cancer, but it is beatable depending how deep into it he is. My mother has beaten it twice (lung over 15 years ago and ovarian which she beat last year), lets hope Buck has a victory lap in him too.
   5. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: April 18, 2022 at 09:13 PM (#6072453)
He started in Toronto in 1981 as a veteran platooning catcher who could not hit.

true, but from 1981-83 with the Blue Jay, he posted a 98 OPS+, which is good for a catcher. Those 3 years were the best hitting years in his career. 3.5 of his career 4.5 WAR were in TOR.
   6. Snowboy Posted: April 18, 2022 at 11:20 PM (#6072483)
Thanks Misirlou.
Buck came up in 1969, and although the 1970s tolerated a lot of players, especially up the middle, who could not hit, I should have said he was a light-hitting catcher. He couldn't have played that long and *not* been able to hit.
Buck could hit, just not very hard, and he focused on his work behind the plate. And his best years at the dish were his first few when he came to Toronto, which is part of his status as a legend, and an icon.
   7. Ron J Posted: April 19, 2022 at 07:48 AM (#6072502)
#6 Made a career mostly out of being better than Ernie Whitt against LHP (or similar players -- one of them was Bob Stinson a switch-hitter who couldn't hit LHP at all). More than half of his PAs were against LHP. Couldn't hit RHP at all and was ... tolerable given his glove against LHP.

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