Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame member Warren Martin, a baseball and World War II veteran, died Tuesday.
He was 94.
The Saginaw High graduate was inducted into the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. He placed professional baseball for 13 years, but he was just as proud of his three-year military career during World War II.
“He was in the 103rd infantry division in World War II and got two Bronze Stars and a Combat Infantry Medal,” his daughter, Karen Martin, said. “Growing up, he told me baseball stories. Once I got older, he told me more Army stories.”
Martin told her of the time when he was about to go into battle and met a new soldier, who was nervous and afraid. Martin told him not to worry. The new soldier was the unit’s only loss.
“My dad always felt bad about that,” Karen Martin said. “He felt he told him something that didn’t come to fruition.”
Martin was hurt in battle when, during a shelling, he stepped in a hole on his way to a foxhole and injured his knee. He spent the next three months in a hospital in Nancy, France and came home on a hospital ship.
He restarted a baseball career that began after he signed with the Chicago White Sox out of high school and was invited to the team’s training camp. In his first season out of high school, Martin was 12-10 with 149 strikeouts in 28 games in 1941. In 1942, he was 9-9, before he left for France.
After he returned from World War II, he played in Los Angeles, Tacoma, Des Moines, Denver, Saginaw, Austin, Minot and Rochester. He was listed in the 1945 World Series programs as a player in the Chicago Cubs system.
He retired from baseball after the 1954 season in Rochester, returning to Saginaw. He became vice-president of Great Lakes Federal.
“The war probably hurt his baseball career, but he was not bitter at all,” Karen Martin said. “He was a small-town boy. He had chances to move to other places, but he wanted to be in Saginaw.”
One of his favorite stories was about Major League hitter Hack Wilson, who had a reputation for heavy drinking. Martin took a worm and put it in water, showing Wilson that it lived. He took a worm and put it in some whiskey, showing Wilson that it died. He asked Wilson what it proved.
“It means,” Wilson said, “that if I drink water, I’ll get worms.”
Martin returned to Saginaw after his baseball career and went to work for Great Lakes Federal. He became vice president and chief appraiser before retiring in 1986.
After retiring, he focused on fishing and his cat, Blackie.
“He actually wrote a book about Blackie the Cat … Blackie came to Chicago for my wedding,” Karen Martin said. “He did a lot of tricks. He went on a leash. He’d shake hands, roll over, jump through a hope.
“My dad and Blackie had a regular room at the Driftwood Motel in St. Ignace. On his 17th birthday, he went behind my dad’s dresser and died. It took my dad six months to get over it and get a new cat (Dolly).”
Martin was married for 58 years to Alice Martin, who died in 2004.
Funeral services are at noon Monday at the Reitz Herzberg Funeral Home, 1550 S. Midland, in Saginaw. Family will receive visitors from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday and at 11 a.m. Monday at the Reitz Herzberg Funeral Home.
“It is amazing how many people my dad connected with,” Karen Martin said. “A guy I work with … his wife is from Chicago. After the Cubs won, I saw her and said congratulations. I told her I was rooting for them because my dad was in the Cubs organization.
“She said her grandfather (Robert Kuhlman) did too, and she showed me a picture of the Des Moines Cubs in 1948. I thought that was strange because my dad played for that team in 1947. I looked it up, and they were on the same team.”
Kuhlman and Martin both won 10 games for the Des Moines team in 1947. The team included three other Michigan natives in Bob Rush (Battle Creek), Dick Kemper (Flint) and Len Okrie (Detroit).
“My dad remembered Bob Kuhlman, said he threw a no-hitter that season,” Karen Martin said. “I told his grand-daughter. Her aunt had a lot of memorabilia, including a ball from that team that had my dad’s signature on it.
“All those connections, from Saginaw to Des Moines to San Diego … it really is amazing.”