Buff Biographies: Fred Martin

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Fred Martin, Pitcher 1951 Houston Buffs

Fred Martin, Pitcher
1951 Houston Buffs

Fred Martin (6’1″, 185 lb) (BR/TR) was a tough, talented, and wily pitcher who spent 3 years in the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals (1946, 1949-50) , putting up a 12-3, 3.78 mark for his time in service at the highest level. Over the longer run of 25 years (1935-60), Martin also posted a 17-season minor league mark of  169-135, 3.38 for mostly Cardinal clubs, including  4 whole and partial seasons (1941, 1951, 1953, 1959) with the Houston Buffs.

Martin had his greatest statistical year when he went 23-6 with a 1.88 ERA for the great 1941 Buffs and then returned in a decade to contribute heavily (15-11, 2.54) to the success of the 1951 Texas League champion Buffs.

Over time, Fred Martin earned a lot of respect as a teacher of pitching mechanics, particularly as the game pertains to a pitch that many experts give him credit for either inventing – or redefining from its use in earlier eras by turn of the century greats Christy Mathewson and Rube Foster of the early Negro League. The pitch we speak of here, of course,, is the one we now know as the “split-finger fastball”.

Martin is also given credit for being the mentor who taught the pitching-life-changing weapon to Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter and to Roger Craig who then taught the split-finger to the great Mike Scott, among others.

Stories of mentorship are common and often hard to verify, but if they begin to happen in bunches about the same teacher bearing the same lesson, you begin to listen and consider giving them credibility.

Fred Martin

Fred Martin

Fred Martin was one of those guys. And he was a guy who even looked as though he was born to play baseball. Born on June 27, 1915 in Williams, Oklahoma, the 20-year old “Okie” pitched his first game, just barely out of the Dust Bowl in 1935 for Class D Siloam Springs, Arkansas – and he didn’t hang ’em up until he was 45 and pitching his last two games in relief for Class C St. Cloud, Minnesota. By then, the clock had rolled all the way to the year 1960.

Fred Turner Martin left this world on June 11, 1979 in Chicago. He was just 63 when he passed, looking near his end like a guy who could still bring it, had he been called upon to do so.

Keep your seat, Fred. You did enough. More than enough.

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