I’ve got a confession. “Random” White Sox card doesn’t apply here as much as it should. On just the second entry, I suppose I should be ashamed of myself for straying from format so soon, but I’m not. When typing up the trade that brought Ron Hassey to the White Sox in the first random card post, the name Carlos Martinez caught my eye. I remembered Martinez, he was all set to be a big deal just before he wasn’t. So I looked him up and noticed he’d died young, just 40 years old. I got curious, so I decided that Carlos would be next.
Martinez broke into the league for a cup of coffee in 1988 as a September call-up. Which is fitting, he earned his nickname of “café” by being a big fan and drinker of Venezuelan coffee. His initial cup of MLB coffee didn’t go well, though. He failed to get above the Mendoza Line and exhibited a high strikeout, low walk approach (0 walks in his 55 at-bats). In late April of ’89, he got another shot, and this one went much better. A .300/.340/.406 line in 350 at-bats had him feeling pretty good about his rookie campaign. Having split most of his time between infield corners, it was clear that his defense wasn’t going to impress anybody. With that, the White Sox decided that in 1990 he should be primarily a first baseman, where his defensive ineptitude would be less obvious.
As the right handed end of a platoon with Steve Lyons, Martinez regressed. His already low walk rate dropped down and the batting average of balls in play of .346 he enjoyed the previous year dropped nearly 100 points, indicating either weaker contact or just a whole lot of bad luck. The Sox lost patience and when August rolled around, they decided to go with their mammoth prospect (both in prospect status and size) from Columbus, GA, a guy named Frank Thomas. I don’t think it’s necessary to explain that Martinez didn’t get too many more opportunities to bat in a White Sox uniform.
Martinez was granted free agency prior to the 1991 season and signed on with the Indians. Injuries would take their toll on him, and despite getting some chances with Cleveland over the next couple years, and a final shot with the Angels in 1995, he never landed a full-time gig. In 1998, he finally retired and returned to Venezuela.
According to his wife, Evelyn de Martinez hed had no choice but to retire, battling an unknown illness. The illness would cause him to be hospitalized repeatedly until finally he chose to be at home with his family for the end. His wife was unwilling to specify the cause of death, and I couldn’t find even the slightest bit of speculation of what it could be.
The son of Carlos’ son, Jose Martinez, is 24 and currently plays in the White Sox system for the Birmingham Barons. At 6’5, 170, it looks like he’s got a lot of his dad in him.
It was Carlos Martinez, while playing for the Cleveland Indians, that hit a ball that Jose Canseco will never forget. Martinez launched a ball to right field, and Canseco lost sight of it as he drifted back to the wall. He put his glove up, but never touched the ball with it. Instead the ball found his head, and bounced directly over the fence.