The legendary voice of the Toronto Blue Jays announced that he will be leaving the broadcast booth while he receives treatment for cancer.
Gutted and choked were the feelings that came to mind when I heard the news on this Easter Sunday. Tears filled my eyes when I heard that the voice of a lot of our childhoods, Buck Martinez announced that he has cancer and that he has to leave his broadcasting duties behind to fight his diagnosis. Buck Martinez, 73, put out a statement prior to the ballgame which you can read here. Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro also put out a statement which you can read here.
Martinez came to Toronto in the strike shortened 1981 season after stops with Philadelphia, Kansas City, and the Milwaukee Brewers. Buck told me one time, and told all of you on Sunday, that he felt he would only be in Toronto for a year. Martinez would play with the Jays up until the 1986 season. That’s right, after the play the broke his leg at the Kingdome he worked his behind off to try and get himself back in the lineup.
After the 1986 season Buck was called into Manager Jimy Williams’ office. In that room were President Paul Beeston and General Manager Pat Gillick. Beeston offered Buck a job as the Colour Commentator for the TSN broadcasts. TSN was looking to lock down a full-time commentator to work with Fergie Oliver, Yankees and Expos broadcasting legend Ken Singleton filled the role for the 85 and 86 seasons. Buck declined the offer citing the fact that he felt he had one or two more years left in him.
He went back home to tell his wife Arlene that the Blue Jays offered him the position of Colour Analyst and he turned it down. Arlene quickly advised Buck to call them back and tell them he would gladly accept. When I had the privilege to speak with Buck he told me Arlene is still the smart one of their marriage. I could hear the smile on his face through the phone.
Buck worked very hard to transition to a commentator from being a player. His wife Arlene was an actress so she helped him get into taking acting classes and also voice classes. He also got in touch with Harry Coyle, legendary Director for the NBC’s MLB Game of the Week through the 1970’s and 80’s. Coyle talked with Buck about the ABC’S of the broadcasting industry and after that meeting and when you add in the extra classes, that’s when we see Buck Martinez the Baseball Broadcaster take shape.
Buck worked on ESPN’S Wednesday Night Baseball with the Iconic Chris Berman. Berman, for those who don’t know, wrote the introduction to Buck’s most recent book Change Up. When Cal Ripken’s 2131 game came up the Executives at ESPN wanted Joe Morgan to work with Chris Berman for that game. Morgan at the time was working the Sunday Night broadcasts and ESPN felt that more American’s were familiar with Morgan’s work. Boomer told his bosses that if the game is on Wednesday night’s it’s Buck and Boomer.
Buck and Boomer would go onto win an Emmy for their work during that broadcast.
Buck would continue his work on the TSN Broadcasts with Jim Hughson until 1995 when Hughson made a career move to focus more on the NHL. That created an opportunity for Dan Shulman, who at the time was hosting Prime Time Sports on the FAN 1430. Dan and Buck would become a very beloved and a very respected broadcast duo from their on. Dan and Buck would do national ESPN games together as well.
Buck would become the Manager of the Blue Jays for the 2001 season. It was during this season where a giant career and life changing meeting would happen between Gord Ash, Martinez, Mark Connor, who was the Pitching Coach, and a young Starting Pitcher with a boatload of potential by the name of Roy Halladay. It was in that meeting that they told Halladay they were going to send him down to work with the late Mel Queen . The rest after that for Doc was history.
Buck would be relieved of his Managerial duties in 2002. From there he went to work with the Baltimore Orioles working with another great Broadcaster in Gary Thorne. He would also work on Sirius XM and TBS Sunday afternoon baseball and playoff coverage.
After his former boss J.P. Riccardi was fired, Rogers brought Buck home. In 2010, Buck came back this time as the Play-by-Play voice, a role he had very limited experience with. He would occasionally do Play by Play during TSN’S Spring Training broadcasts. Buck was paired up with Pat Tabler and they have been the predominant duo ever since even if you include the long-awaited return of Dan Shulman from his legendary ESPN run.
If you listened to Martinez’s work now as a Play-by-Play guy you can see how the hard work for him continues to pay off. I was always wondered what it would have been like if Buck called Jose Bautista’s 7th inning home run during the 2015 ALDS or Edwin Encarnacion’s 2016 Wild Card walk-off. I know he would have given those moments the respect they deserved.
Buck is a big game broadcaster. Until 2020 he was calling the MLB Network International version of the World Series and the All-Star Game. Compared to a lot of other broadcasters we are subjected to not named Dan Shulman, Buck is head and shoulders above the rest.
The point to this is, through his hard work and determination Martinez has always found some sort of success. I know this new challenge will be no different. As much as I am going to miss “Get up ball! Get out of here and gone” for the next little while, I know Buck Martinez will be back and we all can sit in front of the TV and enjoy his work. Like all of you, I cannot wait for the moment.
You’ve got this Buck! We’ll see you soon.