High School: Elk Grove
College: Sacramento City College, Sacramento State , Southwest Missouri State
* MLB Playing Career: 17 Years (Kansas City, Milwaukee, Toronto)
* MLB Managing Career: 2 Years (Toronto)
* MLB Radio and Television Analyst
Buck Martinez was born John Albert Martinez in Redding, California to parents who both served in the military. His dad, John, was in Pearl Harbor the day of the attack while his mom, Shirley, served in the Women’s Army Core and was on the cover of Stars and Stripes magazine. His family moved to South Sacramento when he was 10, and he started playing baseball with Parkway Little League and Southgate Babe Ruth. He made a name for himself at Elk Grove High School where he was an All-Conference catcher all three years. Known as one of the best catchers the area has seen, Buck was a phenomenal hitter: batting .512 his senior year. He then went to Sacramento City College and was part of a team that had seven players eventually play professional ball. They advanced to the state championship game; however, Buck was drafted in January and had to sign, so he never got to play in the game. After graduating from Sac City he attended Sac State and Southwest Missouri State.
Buck was drafted in 1967 by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2nd round. He was then traded to the Kansas City Royals and made his major league debut in 1969. Although he could never duplicate his early success at the plate, it was behind the plate where Buck excelled. He became known as a tremendous catcher with great defensive skills. He played with Kansas City until 1977 at a time the Royals became a perennial playoff team. In 1976, KC won the Division and Buck hit .333 in the playoffs and drove in 4 runs in 5 games. Sadly, in November of 1976 he was in a hunting accident and was shot in the eye, and had to have surgery for a detached retina. Buck needed to wear a contact lens in his left eye from then on.
In 1978, Buck was traded to Milwaukee where he played with more outstanding talent. Then in 1981 he was traded to Toronto; where he thought he would only be there for one season, but has become his longtime baseball home. More than 35 years later, Buck is still with organization and is the voice of the Toronto Blue Jays!
Buck has caught many of the biggest names in the game, but in 1982, he was on the verge of making history. Jim Clancy had a near perfect game with Buck behind the plate calling the pitches. Facing the minimum number of batters, with two outs in the 9th inning, Clancy gave up a bloop single to end the perfect game. The next batter hit into a double play.
One of his most memorable, yet bizarre, games he ever played nearly ended his career. He broke his leg and severely dislocated his ankle in a home plate collision with the Seattle Mariners' Phil Bradley at the Kingdome. On the historic play, Buck actually tagged out 2 runners at home plate. After the collision, where Bradley was called out, Buck still attempted to throw out the advancing runner Gorman Thomas who was trying to go to third base. When the throw went into left field, Thomas tried to come home. However, he was tagged out by Buck who was sprawled-out while suffering a broken leg. He managed to catch the throw from teammate, George Bell, while laying on the ground: thus completing a 9–2–7–2 double play!
Buck’s defensives skills were outstanding as he had several years with fielding percentages of .989,.991 and .995. He had his best year in 1982 when he set career highs in hits, doubles, home runs and RBI, and caught 93 games behind the plate. In 1986, he recorded his 600th hit and played in his 1,000th game.
While he was still playing, Buck started broadcasting doing the ALCS, World Series and All-Star Games. After retiring, he was offered the job at TSN, replacing his mentor Tony Kubek. Buck continued there for 14 years, while also working for ESPN and The Baseball Network In 2000, Buck was hired as the Manager of the Blue Jays, thus putting him back on the field with his team once again. He managed for two years and then returned to broadcasting, with MASN covering Baltimore Orioles games. In 2010, he returned to the Blue Jays and made the transition from color analyst to play-by-play, and became the voice of the Blue Jays.
Buck has won two Emmy Awards for his excellence in broadcasting. While at ESPN, Buck won for his broadcast of Cal Ripken’s 2,131 game. He also won a Regional Sports Emmy award for Best Sports Analyst while broadcasting for MASN. Buck has written three books on the game he loves so much. He is one a of very select group of men who have played, managed and broadcast the game.
Major League Baseball
"I am honored and humbled to be elected into The Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame. Sacramento always has been a perfect place for athletes to develop no matter what their sport, because of the support of the community, the schools and the great coaches. There are so many names that came to mind when I heard the news from TC Martin, and I look forward to the opportunity to recognize many of those wonderful people when I am back home in Sacramento."