May 29 – Happy Birthday Admiral Martin

martin222When Lou Gorski made the decision to move his Gloversville Glovers to Amsterdam prior to the 1938 Canadian-American League baseball season, he did not have much working capital but he did have a manager. Admiral “Pepper” Martin, a career minor leaguer, had skippered Gorski’s Glovers in 1937. Before moving to Gloversville, Gorski’s team had played the ’36 season in Watertown and Martin had managed for the mobile owner there as well. When Gorski reached an affiliation agreement with the New York Yankees just before the ’38 season began, George Weiss, New York’s legendary front office executive agreed that Martin would skipper the Rugmakers as well.

Though he was about to turn 36 years old when he arrived in Amsterdam, Martin was still a player manager, filling in for his squads in the outfield and infield as the need arose or the mood struck him. That didn’t happen very often during his days as a Rugmaker because the roster he skippered was loaded with quality players. His pitching staff featured a starting rotation that included two seventeen game winners and two fifteen game winners. His lineup included five regulars who averaged over .300, led by the potent bats of two future Major Leaguers, Ken Sears and Ford Garrison.

The Rugmakers 78-34 record made them the runaway winners of the 1938 league pennant and you would have thought that performance guaranteed Martin some job security. But Weiss and his super scout, Paul Krichell had other ideas. By then, Gorski had sold the team to a group of Amsterdam investors. Though the team’s local braintrust, led by Herb Shuttleworth and Judge Felix Aulisi wanted Martin back in the dugout for the 1939 season, the Yankees wanted younger blood at the helm. It seems as though some of the Rugmakers biggest stars on that 1938 team may not have been huge fans of Martin’s managerial style. Duke Farrington, for example, one of Amsterdam’s 17-game winning pitchers had almost come to blows with his field boss in the past.

So the Yankees insisted that if Amsterdam wanted to keep Martin on the payroll in 1939, it would have to be as the team’s business manager. As you might expect, this did not sit too well with Martin, so he resigned and became Manager of the Rome Colonels, one of the Rugmakers’ CanAm League rivals.

Two interesting side stories about Martin’s only season in Amsterdam. As mentioned above, Martin was technically a player manager and he saw fit to put himself into his team’s games 11 times as a Rugmaker. But he had never signed an official “player’s” contract permitting him to do so and when league officials realized this, they were seriously considering taking the six Rugmaker victories Martin played in away from the team. In the end, they did not.

Though the ’38 Rugmakers had enjoyed a terrific regular season, their playoff appearance that year was a washout, literally. After falling behind 2 games to 1 in the best of five finals, three days of continuous downpours here in Amsterdam forced team and league officials to suspend the series. It seems that without the gate receipts from the postponed games, both teams were running out of the cash needed to pay the players per diem salaries they were earning during the playoff round.

Martin went on to have a great year managing Rome in 1939, leading the Colonels to a 75 win season. That was good enough for second place. Who finished ahead of them? The Rugmakers under their new skipper, Eddie Sawyer, who would also go on to lead the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies “Whiz Kids” to a World Series.

Martin would continue managing in the CanAm League until WWII forced a suspension of league play in 1942. He passed away in 1990 at the age of 87.

This former skipper of the Rugmakers shares his May 29th birthday with this former skipper of the city of Amsterdam.

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