September 19 – Happy Birthday Hersh Martin

MartinHershHersh Martin serves as a good example of the type of players the Yankees employed during the WWII years, when so many of the guys who constituted Major League Baseball’s regular line-ups were called to service in the military. Martin was New York’s starting left fielder in 1944 and ’45.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, he had originally been signed by the Cardinal organization in 1932, at the age of 22. He played the next the next five years in the St Louis farm system and then made his big league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1937. The Philly team he joined was not very good and the switch-hitting Martin became their regular center-fielder. He led that team in runs scored with 102 and hit a solid .283 in his rookie season. He then averaged .298 in 1938 and made the NL All Star team.

In June of 1940, the Phillies sold Martin to the New York Giants and he was sent back to the minors, where he spent the next four years. The Yankees then purchased his contract in June of 1944 and manager Joe McCarthy immediately inserted him into the line-up as New York’s starting left fielder. He was 34-years-old by then. He hit .302 during the second half of that season and then followed that up by hitting .268 in 1945.

Though he was a big guy, at six feet two inches tall and weighing close to two hundred pounds, Martin did not have much power. He also was not noted for his speed. The truth of the matter is that he probably would not have got the opportunity to start or maybe even sub for the New York Yankees under normal circumstances. But WWII was not a normal circumstance, and career minor leaguers like Martin, who had some Major League experience on their resumes, did an admirable job keeping our national pastime functioning at a time when our armed forces and those serving the war effort at home, desperately needed something to cheer about.

Martin returned to minor league ball after the 1945 season and continued playing regularly at that level until 1953. When he finally hung up his spikes he had 2,299 career base hits as a minor leaguer. He then got into scouting and later worked seventeen years in that capacity for the Mets. He passed away in 1980 at the age of 71.

He shares his birthday with this former Cy Young Award winner, this author of a Yankee no-hitter, this oft-injured former Yankee and this teammate of Martin’s on the WWII era Bronx Bombers.

1944 NYY 85 368 328 49 99 12 4 9 47 5 34 26 .302 .371 .445 .816
1945 NYY 117 479 408 53 109 18 6 7 53 4 65 31 .267 .368 .392 .760
6 Yrs 607 2547 2257 331 643 135 29 28 215 33 253 207 .285 .359 .408 .766
PHI (4 yrs) 405 1700 1521 229 435 105 19 12 115 24 154 150 .286 .354 .404 .757
NYY (2 yrs) 202 847 736 102 208 30 10 16 100 9 99 57 .283 .369 .416 .785
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2013.

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