Mike Martin retires after 40 seasons, plenty of accolades, but 1 glaring omission
NCAA's all-time wins leader departs after 0-for-17 mark at College World Series
PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – When Florida State's Mike Martin was promoted to replace Dick Howser as head baseball coach on Nov. 27, 1979, the then-third base coach made it clear he was committed to his alma mater.
"I have no intention of ever leaving Florida State," Martin said at the time.
He wasn't kidding. Four decades, more than 2,000 wins and 42 consecutive NCAA tournament berths (dating back to predecessors Howser and Woody Woodward before him) later, Martin is the only coach the Seminoles have known.
Come Thursday morning, that will no longer be the case.
The all-time wins leader in Division I college baseball history has left the dugout for the final time, hanging up his hat and No. 11 jersey once and for all. Martin coached his final game in Wednesday night's 4-1 loss to Texas Tech in a College World Series elimination game, ending FSU's season and officially hurling him into retirement.
Martin, 75, leaves the game as one of the most decorated in the history of his profession, joining the likes of the late Auggie Garrido, Rod Dedeaux and Ron Fraser. Under Martin's watch, the Seminoles have amassed a 2,029-736-4 record, 40 consecutive seasons of at least 40 wins, eight Atlantic Coast Conference championships and 11 Metro Conference titles prior to joining the ACC.
But there is one glaring omission from his otherwise impeccable resume -- the elusive national championship.
Throughout his tenure, Martin has been chasing a College World Series ring. His teams have been to Omaha 17 times without ever winning. That's an NCAA record for the most appearances by a school without a win.
Martin is synonymous with FSU baseball. The field on which the Seminoles play bears his name. Including his playing days and stint as an assistant, Martin has been associated with FSU baseball for 47 of its 72 years of existence.
Garrido, the man Martin overtook in 2018 for the most wins in history, hoisted a championship trophy five times in his career, first at Cal State Fullerton and then at Texas.
College Baseball's All-Time Wins Leaders
|Mike Martin||Florida State||2,029||1980-2019|
|Augie Garrido||Texas, Cal State Fullerton, Illinois, Cal Poly||1,975||1970-2016|
|Gene Stephenson||Wichita State||1,768||1978-2013|
|Jim Morris||Miami, Georgia Tech||1,594||1982-2018|
He's also coached 19 players who became Major League Baseball first-round draft picks, including No. 1 overall Paul Wilson. Among the future MLB stars he's coached are catcher Buster Posey (2012 NL MVP), outfielders J.D. Drew and Deion Sanders, and shortstops Luis Alicea and Stephen Drew. Heck, he's even coached a future manager -- Tampa Bay Rays skipper Kevin Cash.
Martin has coached all four of FSU's Golden Spikes Award winners, awarded to the best amateur baseball player in the country. That's the most of any school since it was first awarded in 1978.
The Seminoles always seemed to be a fixture in Omaha under Martin, even after they transitioned to the ACC and navigated a much tougher schedule. FSU went to the College World Series for three straight seasons from 1994-96 and again from 1998-2000. The Seminoles were Omaha-bound in seven of FSU's first nine ACC seasons.
FSU hit a slump, by program standards, in the early 2000s, failing to return to Omaha from 2001-07. It was the longest drought between College World Series appearances under Martin.
Twice under Martin, the Seminoles have made it all the way to the College World Series championship game. In 1986, FSU mounted a ninth-inning charge, but it was too little too late for the Seminoles, who lost to Arizona 10-2.
But it was the loss in 1999 that might have stung the most. The Seminoles fell one run short in a 6-5 loss to rival Miami, giving the Hurricanes their third of four national championships.
For the most loyal FSU baseball fans, Martin's inability to lead his alma mater to a national championship remains the one asterisk to an otherwise uncontested career.
Mike Martin: Year-By-Year
|1980||51-12||College World Series|
|1986||61-13||College World Series runner-up|
|1987||55-18||College World Series|
|1989||54-18||College World Series|
|1991||57-14||College World Series|
|1992||49-21||College World Series|
|1994||53-22||College World Series|
|1995||53-16||College World Series|
|1996||52-17||College World Series|
|1998||53-20||College World Series|
|1999||57-14||College World Series runner-up|
|2000||53-19||College World Series|
|2001||47-19||NCAA Super Regional|
|2002||60-14||NCAA Super Regional|
|2003||54-13-1||NCAA Super Regional|
|2004||45-23||NCAA Super Regional|
|2005||53-20||NCAA Super Regional|
|2008||54-14||College World Series|
|2009||45-18||NCAA Super Regional|
|2010||48-20||College World Series|
|2011||46-19||NCAA Super Regional|
|2012||50-17||College World Series|
|2013||47-17||NCAA Super Regional|
|2015||44-21||NCAA Super Regional|
|2016||41-22||NCAA Super Regional|
|2017||46-23||College World Series|
|2019||42-23||College World Series|
Mounting losses to Florida haven't helped. Martin ends his career with an 11-game losing streak to the Gators, who won the 2017 national championship. The Seminoles dropped 16 of Martin's final 17 meetings against Florida, giving the Gators a 77-76 all-time record against FSU since 1980.
Aside from the heartbreaking losses, there have been plenty of good times for FSU in the Martin era.
Florida State's playing surface was christened Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium in 2005.
Martin's teams won 50-plus games in each of his first 12 seasons, and the Seminoles have never won fewer than 40 games in his tenure. On two occasions, Martin's teams reached 60 or more wins. FSU's 61 wins in 1986 set a school record for victories.
Martin and FSU have been connected since the summer of 1964, when he transferred from what was then Wingate Junior College in his home state of North Carolina to play center field for the Seminoles and former World Series champion Danny Litwhiler. After graduating from FSU in 1966, Martin had a three-year stint in the minor leagues before returning to Tallahassee.
He spent four seasons as an assistant to Woodward and one under Howser before finally ascending to the top of the FSU baseball chain after George Steinbrenner lured Howser away to manage the New York Yankees.
His predecessors had both bolted for jobs in the big leagues, so it was important for FSU to find someone who could lead the Seminoles long term. But it's not likely FSU administration had any idea he would remain as long as he did, surpassing the stay of legendary head football coach Bobby Bowden, who resigned in 2010 after 34 seasons at the helm.
The Seminoles were squarely on the bubble this season for the first time in Martin's lengthy tenure. When all was said and done, they were one of the last four teams in, earning a berth for the 42nd consecutive season. That is the longest active streak in the NCAA and two shy of the all-time record set by Miami from 1974-2016.
Martin's 2019 team started the season 12-0 and rose to No. 1 in the country before inexplicable losses mounted up, souring the farewell tour. The Seminoles were an uncharacteristic 19-13 at the halfway point of the season and, at one point in early April, were shut out for 30 consecutive innings.
The Seminoles were consistently inconsistent, either being blown out by or blowing out opponents.
FSU was held scoreless in six games this year, including back-to-back losses to Miami. Two others -- 8-0 to Boston College at home and 10-0 at Pittsburgh -- came against ACC teams that finished last in their respective divisions.
There were, of course, some highs to go with the lows, among them a series sweep of then-No. 13 Clemson, a three-game sweep of Richmond in Martin's final regular-season series in Tallahassee and a 14-3 trouncing of then-No. 7 Louisville.
But perhaps no game in the seven-time ACC coach of the year's 40 seasons loomed larger than an 11-0 victory against then-No. 14 North Carolina State in last month's ACC tournament. Although the Seminoles missed out on a third consecutive ACC title under Martin, their victory in Durham likely kept them from being left out of the NCAA tournament. The performance was so dominating that the game was shortened to seven innings.
The Seminoles surpassed expectations in the NCAA tournament, walloping No. 4 national seed Georgia in the Athens regional and sweeping No. 13 seed LSU in the Baton Rouge super regional, respectively, en route to Omaha. FSU joined Mississippi State as the only teams to carry a 5-0 record into the College World Series.
Then the Seminoles defeated No. 5 seed Arkansas 1-0 in their opening game at TD Ameritrade Park, winning their College World Series opener for the first time since 1999.
But their bats went cold in Omaha, dropping their first game of the tournament after a 2-0 loss to Michigan.
The Seminoles batted .125 and were 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position in their three College World Series games. Their two runs through three games tied a College World Series record for the fewest since Northern Colorado in 1955.
It was a familiar finish for the man who, if not for the dubious distinction of futility in Omaha, could be considered one of the greatest coaches in any sport of all time.
After coaching his last game, Martin reflected on his 40 years.
"I want to be remembered as a guy that did it right, that put education first, that made sure that guys understood what's expected of them, that they're coming to Florida State to get a degree first," he told reporters. "We're not a school that just wants baseball players. We're a university that demands that you do what you're supposed to do in the classroom, and that's give it your best shot."
Give credit to former athletic director John Bridgers for having the foresight to hire both a program-changing football coach in Bowden and college baseball's future all-time wins leader in Martin. As it turned out, Martin was Bridgers' parting gift to FSU before he left to take the same job at the University of New Mexico in December 1979.
A year earlier, when Woodward announced that he would leave his alma mater to work for the Cincinnati Reds, he lobbied for Martin to take over.
"I would hope that Mike Martin would be given top consideration," Woodward said in August 1978. "He knows the players. He has headed the summer program the last four years. I think he would be received well in all areas."
Instead, the job went to Howser, FSU's first All-American who was coaching third base for the Yankees. He kept Martin on his staff.
Howser, who had purchased a house in Tallahassee, left professional baseball looking for "a change of lifestyle," he said in October 1978, but a telephone call from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner changed everything. Steinbrenner was planning to fire manager Billy Martin and wanted to know if Howser would be interested. They soon met in Ocala, where Steinbrenner had a horse farm, and agreed to a deal for Howser to return to the Yankees.
Martin was serving as interim coach when then-FSU President Bernie Sliger, who was also instrumental in Bowden's hiring, told him a baseball selection committee unanimously recommended him to succeed Howser.
It was "the second greatest day in my life," Martin said at the time. "The greatest was a four-way tie -- the day I married Carol and the days my three children were born."
When he was elevated to head coach before the 1980 season, Martin was paid a little more than $26,000. He leaves FSU with an annual salary of $700,000, making him the fourth-highest paid head coach on campus behind Willie Taggart (football), Leonard Hamilton (men's basketball) and Sue Semrau (women's basketball).
Now the question becomes who will replace him. It's been hanging over the program since it was announced last June that Martin would retire after the 2019 season.
No. 11 has made it no secret he would like the job to go to his son, longtime assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Martin Jr.
But FSU has vowed to conduct a nationwide search for Martin's replacement. The position is currently listed on FSU's website as "being advertised as open until filled." There has been no timetable set for a decision.
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