Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Morrie Martin | Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher and World War II hero dies at 87

Morris "Morrie" Martin, a left-handed pitcher and World War II veteran died May 24, 2010, at the age of 87 due to complications from cancer. Martin made his debut in 1949 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and compiled a career record of 38-34 over the course of ten major league seasons with the seven different teams.

A World War II hero, Martin nearly lost the use of one of his legs and was buried alive in Germany after a bombing. In an interview I conducted with Martin in 2008, he explained how his intuition helped him escape death.

"We were in a house and the house was bombed," Martin said. "We were in the basement, two other guys and myself. This bomb hit at night and just flattened the house upstairs. Just flattened it! We had no contact with nobody. It was just us three down there. They had been bombing the town all day and I said, 'I'm going in this basement to sleep tonight because it has steel reinforcement bars.' They went with me and that's what happened. We finally dug ourselves out in the daylight. We could follow a little pin light and it kept getting bigger and bigger and finally, we dug ourselves out. Two or three days later we caught up with the outfit and they wondered where the hell we came from."

At the Battle of the Bulge, he suffered a bullet wound to his thigh where gangrene set in. It would take 150 shots of penicillin to save the leg from amputation. Martin persevered after the potential career and life ending injury to make a quick return to baseball.

"The injury made it take longer to get in shape," he said. "I just had to work harder to get that leg in shape. I did a lot of running and it finally came around. I played no baseball during World War II. Coming back [in 1946], I won 14 and lost six, and made the All-Star team. My arm was fine, it came naturally; I just needed to get that leg to catch up."

Now with his legs firmly under him, Martin made a rapid ascent to the big show. His budding stardom began by earning the Cuban Winter League MVP for the 1948-49 season, putting him in the same company as Martin Dihigo, Willie Wells, and Minnie Minoso. That spring, Martin cracked Brooklyn's roster and embarked on a ten-year major league career that ended in 1959 with the Chicago Cubs.


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