Mike Martin Has Seen It All At Florida St. 0

By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Mike Martin, the winningest head coach in college baseball history, will cap a remarkable 40-year coaching career in 2019 at Florida St. University.

He only needs 13 more victories to be the first college coach in any sport to collect 2,000 wins.

What many people don’t realize is that he started his head coaching career with two straight losses at Miami (Fla.), 10-0 and 4-3 and wondered what he had got himself into.

In game three, his team quickly fell behind Miami 8-2 as he made wholesale substitutions with his team and faced the real possibility of starting his FSU head coaching career 0-3.

Incredibly, the Seminoles, still trailing 8-2 heading into the seventh, scored seven runs over the last three innings for Martin’s first win as the skipper at Florida St., 9-8 and included a 3-run homer by Mike Yastrzemski in the ninth for the game winner.

Florida State ultimately went 51-12 during the 1980 season as the Seminoles won 18 of their next 19 games after those two losses at Miami.

Martin led Florida State to 50 or more wins 12 consecutive years to start his head coaching career.

Entering the 2019 season, he has a 1,987-713-4 overall record. Martin has the best winning percentage among active head baseball coaches, sporting a .736 mark to go along with 16 trips to the College World Series and 39 consecutive regional appearances.

Of the 3,981 baseball games played in FSU history, Martin has been involved in 3,088 of those in some capacity as a player or coach. He has been on the field or in the dugout for 2,271 of the Seminoles’ 2,887 all-time victories.

Collegiate Baseball will delve into wild experiences he has had in his career, including the time a bus driver died of a heart attack as his team was traveling in San Francisco on a 7-lane highway enroute to play Stanford.

His 2001 Florida St. ball club embarked on a cross-country trip to California and landed at San Francisco International Airport prior to a series at Stanford.

A charter bus picked up the team and began driving on a 7-lane freeway when the unthinkable happened.

The bus driver suffered a fatal heart attack as he slumped over to his right with his foot still on the accelerator…but nobody driving the bus.

Martin and Chip Baker, the team’s Director of Operations, gained control of the bus and guided it safely to the side of the freeway.

Martin and Baker were presented with the university’s prestigious Westcott Award for their bravery in saving the lives of players and staff.

Imagine being one of 27 college baseball players on this bus who just watched a man die.

“That situation is still vivid in my mind after all these years,” said Martin.

“We had left the airport in San Francisco to play Stanford on a charter bus and were headed toward the San Francisco Giants’ new ball park at the time, Pac Bell Park.

“I knew old Candlestick Park was on the way, and the bus driver said it was about 10 minutes ahead on the right.

“So I asked (assistant coach) Chip Baker to tell the players to look off to the right side of the bus in a few minutes because the old park the Giants played in will be there.

“Chip starts telling the players to be aware of this famous stadium on the right hand side and then turns around and asks the bus driver if he is OK because the bus wasn’t traveling straight.

“I am in the first seat to the right of the bus driver and look over at him. The top part of his body was literally learning to the right with his hands off the steering wheel going down a 7-lane freeway!

“All I could think about at that moment was somebody had to stop this bus. I jumped up and started trying to pull his leg off the accelerator. I couldn’t pull it off at first.

“Finally, I just went into a rage and jerked his foot off of that accelerator. While I was doing this, Chip grabbed the steering wheel and sat in the lap of the driver.

“So I just sat down at that point. Chip slowed the bus down and as he brought it to a stop.

“Our trainer started administering CPR to the bus driver as soon as he could.

“I remember getting off the bus and realizing what could have happened. If we had lost control of the bus, it could have easily gone into the bay along the right hand side of the highway and who knows how many could have been injured or died.

“As I was walking from the bus, I broke down and started crying. It hit me what the gravity of the situation was. What in the world would I have done if we lost one or more of our guys? That would have been a tragedy. We were driving 60 mph when all this happened and survived without a mishap.”

Baker vividly remembers that frightening ordeal as if it happened yesterday.

“As the bus was traveling on the freeway toward San Francisco, the bay was directly to the right of the freeway.

“I always sit behind the driver on charter bus trips like this, and I turned around and told our players that Candlestick Park would be along the right in a few minutes.

“My five-year-old daughter was in my lap, and the next thing you know I noticed the bus driver leaning over to the right. I thought he was trying to get me a map or something.

“He had a widow maker with a massive heart attack. Keep in mind there are no guard rails along the right side of the freeway.

“There were rocks, trees and then water. Fortunately, I grabbed the wheel and straightened the direction of the bus and got on the driver’s lap. Mike (Martin) got the foot of the driver off the accelerator.

“It was amazing that at 1:15 p.m. on the 101 Freeway to San Francisco, every car in front of us disappeared. Cars behind us did not pass us because the bus was wobbling until I got control of the steering wheel. Fortunately we got the bus to the side of the road without a horrible tragedy happening.”

To read more of this story and the interesting situations that Mike Martin has had during his career, purchase the Jan. 4, 2019 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.