Randy Martz pitched for only one season on South Carolina’s baseball team, but it was that one spring on the diamond in 1977 that became legendary and has propelled him to be named a member of the 2017 class for the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame sponsored by the Association of Lettermen. The Harrisburg, Pa., native was recruited to play football and was a member of the football team for three years before he got his shot on the mound.
“I wanted to play both sports,” Martz said. “When I came in, Paul Dietzel was coaching (football). I didn’t know which sport I was better at. The next year, Dietzel was gone, and the new guy wasn’t going to let me play both. So I had to wait until my junior year to try out for baseball.
“I played baseball in the summer time in a city league. I didn’t really know how good I was. I went home one summer, and I was striking out 12 guys per game. [South Carolina baseball coach] June [Raines] had me come on out. He put a guy on third base with nobody out, and I struck out the side. That last game of the NCAA Regional that I pitched to get to the World Series, there were about 25 scouts back there with radar guns. I never knew how hard I threw. I think they had me at 93 or 94 miles an hour.”
Martz helped lead June Raines' Gamecocks to the championship game of the 1977 College World Series. He earned the Lefty Gomez Plate as the most outstanding player in college baseball that year after posting a 14-0 record and earning first team All-America honors. Among his wins was a 2-1 victory over previously undefeated (26-0) and top-ranked Clemson at Tiger Field.
“They treated me well there,” Martz said of his days as a Gamecock. “Getting to the College World Series was a big deal and an exciting time for us. I had some great teammates. We had come great players, and it worked out well for us. Mookie [Wilson] was our star. We had three pitchers that played in the major leagues from that team with [Ed] Lynch, me and Jim Lewis.
“I didn’t know this at the time, but I found out later, we didn’t put one relief pitcher in the game the whole World Series. All of the starters finished every game. I had two complete games. I’ve never heard of that before.”
The experience of playing in the Major Leagues was great. It was such a different atmosphere. That’s why so many people chase that dream.Randy Martz
Later that year, Martz was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Chicago Cubs. He eventually played a total of four major league seasons with the Cubs and Chicago White Sox.
“Chicago is a good town and a good place to play,” Martz said. “Our teams weren’t very good back then, but the experience of playing in the Major Leagues was great. It was such a different atmosphere. That’s why so many people chase that dream.
“I’ve always been a Cubs fan. I’ve always endeared myself to the team that first signed me. It made my life when they won the World Series last year.”
Martz is married with three sons, and he is still around the game he loves. He recently retired from coaching in the Frontier League after 17 years, but is still the head baseball coach at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Ill., where he’s been for 27 years.
“When I got done playing, I didn’t know anything else,” Martz laughed. “I was going back to school to finish my degree at Southern Illinois – Edwardsville, and I began helping out a little bit. I enjoyed it, so it turned out well for me.”
Martz regularly returns to campus for the South Carolina baseball alumni game each year, but this trip back to his alma mater is extra special as his former football teammate, Bill Currier, is also one of this year’s USC Athletics Hall of Fame inductees.
“It’s an honor,” Martz said. “This might be a first because Bill Currier and I were roommates at the Roost. So that’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it.”
Current photo courtesy of Lewis and Clark CC