Dec 9, 2015

1973 N.L. Champion Mets Utility Player: Teddy Martinez (1971-1974)

Teodoro Noel Martinez was born on December 10, 1947 in Barahona, Dominican Republic. The slim six foot infielder was signed as an amateur free agent by the New York Mets in 1966 at the age of 19. At A ball in 1968, he hit over .300 and played a solid defensive infield. By 1970 he was hitting .306 with 13 stolen bases at AAA Tidewater, and posting a .966 fielding %.

Martinez made his MLB debut on July 18th 1971 playing second base & batting 8th in a game against Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. He stayed up for a brief four games that week, getting one hit in 16 at bats. He hit .297 at AAA Tidewater in 1971, as the clubs main second baseman. That July he got another call up filling in mostly at shortstop that month. He hit safely in his first four games, with another four game streak at the end of the month.

He hit his first career HR on September 7th against Nelson Briles of that seasons world champion Pittsburgh Pirates. He managed to get into over 90 games in each of the next three seasons as a utility middle infielder, also playing some outfield. In 38 games he hit .288 with 10 RBIs six stolen bases & 16 runs scored.

In 1972 he made the Mets Opening Day roster, and would see action in 102 games as a utility infielder. On May 5th his 14th inning single drove home the winning run against the Los Angeles Dodgers, giving the Mets a walk off win keeping them in first place at that time. On May 18th his 1st inning triple scored Willie Mays & then after an error at home plate , Martinez himself scampered home. The Mets would win the game 2-0.

In late September he had one of his biggest offensive days of the year, gathering up three hits with two RBIs in a 7-2 win over the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium. On October 1st he ended his season by hitting a surprise three run HR off the Pirates Bob Miller in a 7-3 Mets win at Three River Stadium.

The speedy Martinez, led the Mets in triples (5) & was third in stole bases (7). Martinez batted .228 hitting a HR five doubles and driving in 19 runs. Martinez posted a .994 fielding percentage at second base in 47 games, making one error turning nine double plays. He played 42 games at short posting a .983 %, making just three errors in 175 chances. The versatile Martinez even played 15 games in the outfield as well.

In 1973 the Mets acquired the steady second baseman; Felix Millan who never missed any time, so Teddy only played behind Bud Harrelson at short. He filled in when Harrelson went down with an injury, that season missing some time. He would play in 44 games at short posting .941 fielding % making 11 errors in 187 chances, while turning 12 double plays. He also played in 21 games in the outfield when needed. 

He was in the middle of all the excitement on the second game of the season, even though he did not start the game. Martinez came in to run for Ed Kranepool, in the 9th inning of a 2-2 tie, after Eddie had singled against the Phillies Dick Selma (former Met). He advanced on a fielder's choice, then scored the game winning run on Willie Mays' base hit.

On June 27th in the first game of a double header, he doubled driving in a run in the Mets seven run third inning against the Phillies. The Mets barley held on winning 7-6. In the night cap his RBI sac fly was the only run the Mets scored in the 7-1 loss.

He saw a lot of action in August hitting safely in 13 of 22 games. He only saw action in seven games of the Mets incredible September stretch, but contributed on September 3rd with his biggest game of the year. With the Mets still 5 1/2 games out of first place in a tight race, Martinez led the team to victory with a four hit day. He drove in four runs in a Jerry Koosman 5-0 shutout over Steve Carlton & the Phillies at Shea Stadium. In that game Martinez hit his only HR of the season, a solo shot in the fourth inning. He had come up twice with the bases loaded, (2nd inning & 5th inning) delivering both times with hits, including a double.

As all the Mets regulars got healthy in the final month, Martinez didn't see much playing time as the Mets went on a tear & won the Eastern Division. He did score two key runs in the final weeks of the season.

On September 9th in Pittsburgh, the Mets were down 4-1 to the first place Pirates, two & half games back. They came back with a big inning scoring five runs, led by a Wayne Garrett triple & RBI singles from Ron Hodges & Don Hahn. Martinez had come in to run for Hodges & scored what turned out to be the winning run.

On September 20th at Shea Stadium, in the game now known as "the ball off the wall game", he came in as a pinch runner after pinch hitter Jim Beachump singled off the first place Pirates, Jim Rooker. With the Mets down by a run, Wayne Garrett sacrificed Martinez over to second. He then scored on a Felix Millan base hit, tying the game.

The Pirates went ahead in the 9th but the Mets tied it up. In the 13th inning the Pirates Dave Augustine hit a ball that hit the top of the wall, came back in to Cleon Jones, who threw to Wayne Garrett who threw home to catcher Ron Hodges & nailed Richie Zisk trying to score. Hodges won it with a walk off RBI single in the bottom of the 13th.

He played in 92 games overall, batting .255 with 67 hits, 11 doubles, 14 RBIs & five stolen bases. In the World Series he made two appearances as a pinch runner against the Oakland A's.

In 1974 he appeared in a career high 116 games, 75 of them at shortstop for an injured Bud Harrelson. He posted a .952 fielding % making 17 errors with a career high 32 double plays turned. He also played at second (11 games) third (12 games) & in the outfield (10 games) also filling in as a pinch hitter. Early in the season in May, he had a stretch where he drove in two runs in a game four times in nine games.

On July 7th, he led the offense in Tom Seaver's three hit shutout in San Francisco. Martinez had three hits & drove in four of the Mets runs.

On July 28th he had a three RBI day, including a bases loaded single in the bottom of the 8th inning, scoring two runs in the Mets 4-1 win over the Montreal Expos. He helped an August 26th come comeback with a pinch hit RBI double against the Houston Astros in the 9th inning. He then scored the tying run on Felix Millan's base hit & Rusty Staub won it walk off style with another single scoring Bud Harrelson.

Teddy again led the team in triples with seven, batting .219 with a career high two HRs, 15 doubles 14 walks and 43 RBIs. That winter the Mets traded him to the St. Louis Cards in order to get two players, outfielder Mike Vail & infielder Jack Heidemann.

After batting only .190 in 19 games he was traded to the Oakland A's batting .172 for the AL Western Champions. Martinez saw action in 45 games behind Bert Campaneris & 31 games behind Phil Garner & 14 games behind Sal Bando playing a superb defense. He made three appearances in the ALCS losing to the Boston Red Sox as the A’s Dynasty reign ended.

He spent 1976 in the minors then got picked up by the Los Angeles Dodgers for 1977 as a utility infielder winning two straight NL pennants. On August 21st, 1977 he tied a NL second baseman record, turning five double plays in a game. He hit a career high .299 in 67 games that season and batted .255 the next year in 1978 in 54 games. He did not appear in any of the post season games either year. Martinez played one more year in Los Angeles, finishing up his nine season career in 1979.

Overall he played in 657 games, batting .240, with 355 Hits, 50 Doubles, 16 Triples, 7 HRs, 108 RBI, 29 Stolen Bases, scoring 165 Runs and a .270 on base %. At short he posted a .956 fielding % in 282 games turning 102 double plays, making 46 errors in 1038 chances. At second he posted a .994% in 168 games. In his Mets career he played in 353 games.

Retirement: After his playing days he has been a long time hitting coach for the Sinon Bulls, now in the Dodgers organization.

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