By Chuck Murr
Date: Jan 25, 2006
Carlos Martinez, whose claim to fame was getting credit for a home run on a fly ball that bounced off outfielder Jose Canseco's head, has died at age 40. Martinez played seven seasons in the major leagues, three of them with the Cleveland Indians.
Martinez's wife Evelyn reported that the former infielder died at his home in Venezuela. She told an Associated Press reporter that he died of a disease that forced him to retire from baseball in his early 30s _ but refused to identify the ailment.
"He was hospitalized many times until last week, when they told me nothing else could be done," she told the AP. "He wanted to spend his final days here at home with his family."
Martinez, nicknamed "Cafe" because of his love for rich Venezulean coffee, was signed by the New York Yankees as an 18-year-old amateur in 1983. He was dealt to the Chicago White Sox in a multi-player trade that also included current Indians bench coach Joel Skinner in 1986. Martinez made his big-league debut with the Chisox in 1988.
Signed as a free agent by the Indians in 1991, he split that season between Class AA Canton-Akron and Cleveland. He hit .329 with 11 homers and 73 RBI in only 80 games in the minors that year, then batted .284 with five homers and 30 RBI in 72 games with the Tribe.
Martinez split the next two seasons between the Indians and their Triple-A team. He hit .263 with five homers and 35 RBI in 69 games for Cleveland in 1992 and .244 with five homers and 31 RBI in 80 games with the Indians in 1993.
One of those homers became one of the most infamous plays in baseball history at old Cleveland Stadium. On May 25, 1993, Martinez lofted a fly ball that Texas Rangers right fielder Jose Canseco appeared to be set to catch -- about 10 feet in front of the fence. Canseco put his glove up, but the ball hit him squarely on the head and bounced over the fence.
It was ruled a home run -- but only after several minutes of deliberation by official scorer Russ Schneider, who said he considered giving Canseco a four-base error.
After being released by Cleveland in April 1994, Martinez did not play again until signing with the California Angels the next year. He split the 1995 season between the majors and minors, his last year in American pro baseball.
Martinez, who played first base, third base and 11 games in the outfield, had a major-league career batting average of .258 with 25 homers and 161 RBI.