By Dave Socier, The Pueblo Chieftain
It was Aunt Helen who gave Felix “Tippy” Martinez his nickname as a youngster. It was Earl Weaver who tried to give him an ulcer as a relief pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles.
Feliz Anthony Martinez survived both the colorful name and his fire-breathing manager. He built a stellar athletic career that concluded in 1986 with him ranked as one of major league baseball’s premier relief pitchers.
He has had his share of honors through the years: all-state high school baseball pitcher, all-Western Conference hurler, charter member of the Colorado State University Athletic Hall of Fame. Now, Tippy has put the final trim on the package, entrance into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
“This is really the honor of a lifetime,” he said from his home in Towson, MD, where he resides with his wife Carol.
Tippy, still trim at 5-foot-10, 179 pounds, remains active in baseball, conducting pregame and postgame interviews for the Comcast Sports Network in Baltimore.
Martinez began to attract attention in 1965 at La Junta High School. He logged a 22-4 career pitching record there and was drafted by the Washington Senators out of high school.
“I wasn’t ready for pro baseball then,” he said. “I wanted college experience, to make my own decisions, see where college baseball led me.”
It took him to a 1972 CSU junior season in which he posted a 10-1 record and a 1.25 ERA. Grand Junction’s Sam Suplizio signed him to a New York Yankees contract on July 28, 1972, after Martinez ended a 128-game semi-pro scoring streak by the Boulder Collegians with a 3-0 shutout.
He spent five and a half years with the Yankees and Weaver lauded the 1976 mid-season trade that brought Martinez to the Orioles’ pitching staff, one potent with starting pitchers.
“Earl gave a lot of people ulcers, players, umpires and all,” Martinez said. “He was great to have on your side because he knew so much baseball. But sometimes he got the umps mad and that made it hard to get a call on a close pitch.”
In an interesting conclusion to Tippy’s academic career, it was Weaver who administered the final examination for his college degree. Martinez was at spring training in Florida when the test was given in Colorado. His professor let Weaver handle the duty.
The 11 seasons Martinez put in with the Orioles’ was highlighted by appearances in the 1979 World Series, won by Pittsburgh in seven games, and the triumphant 1983 World Series in which Martinez recorded two saves, tying a record at the time.
Martinez was also the winning pitcher in Game 4 of the 1983 American League Championship Series at Chicago that clinched the pennant for the Orioles.
“The hardest series to win is the one to get into the World Series,” Tiipy said. “I think losing in 1979, after leading Pittsburgh three games to one, helped us win in 1983. We knew what it took to win.”
A pick-off specialist, Martinez is famous for catching three Toronto runners — Barry Bonnell, Dave Collins and Willie Upshaw — in the 10th inning of a winning relief stint at home on August 23, 1983. Baltimore fans lated voted itone of the five most memorable Orioles games in history.
The hardest series to win is the one to get into the World Series.