Marty Pattin

January 4, 2008

I’ve never really been from anywhere. I was born in New Jersey, but my family moved out of there before I’d forged any significant connection to that place. In central Vermont, where I spent most of my childhood, people who weren’t born in Vermont, especially ones with long hair and foreign cars cluttering their driveway and half-Jew kids in hippie school and no freshly shot venison clogging their meat freezers, were considered outsiders, flatlanders. Later, I lived in New York City for a long time as a young man, where I felt sort of like a goy from Vermont, and drifted back to Vermont for a couple years, where I felt sort of like a Jew from New York. Now I live in Chicago, where I don’t really feel like I’m from anywhere except somewhere else. 

Marty Pattin, on the other hand, was one of the guys whose “Born” town was the same as his “Home” town on the back of his card, in his case a place called Charleston, Illinois. I always noticed the same-Born-and-Home guys and considered them more solid than me, more rooted. I always imagined the houses they’d lived in their whole lives had white pillars in front and a tire swing hanging from an old oak in back.

But by the time of this card Marty Pattin had been drifting around the American League for nine years, from Anaheim to Seattle to Milwaukee to Boston to Kansas City. If you trace these places on a map you will make something that looks a bit like the outermost curl of a spiral. Southwest, Northwest, upper Midwest, Northeast, lower Midwest. The only thing left to do to make the curl a complete spiral is to give it a center, and the center point, one would imagine, would be slightly north and slightly east of its most recent stop of Kansas City. In other words: Charleston, Illinois.

I don’t know if Marty Pattin is actually on the brink of spiraling home in this photo. I could look it up of course, but sometimes I like to rely only on these cards and my memory. The card says he is 33 years old and that he has just gone 8 and 14 for the 1976 Royals. The memory says the 1976 Royals were really good, maybe too good to retain a 33-year-old 8 and 14 pitcher for too much longer. The memory is unclear on whether Marty Pattin endured throughout the Royals’ impressive run of division titles or conversely whether he vanished. He kind of morphs into Mark Littel a little in memory, a long reliever type far from the frontline status of Gura, Splitorff, and Leonard.

The card also presents a photographic portrait of Marty Pattin, of course. He is enacting the familiar still-life-of-pitcher pose, which makes him look like a weary, aging mouthbreather bending down to reach for a doorknob. I wonder what’s behind that door.


  1. 1.  Curiosity got the best of me, so I looked it up. Pattin hung around though the 1980 season when the Royals finally made it to the World Series. Oddly, he had his best statistical year in 1976 despite the 8-14 record. He posted a 2.49 ERA and 142 ERA+ according to Baseball Reference. Dude must have had some bad luck!

  2. 2.  Yes, Pattin was a good pitcher in 1976-7, despite the W-L record.

    His B-R page also shows that he attended Eastern Illinois University. It’s located in Charleston, Illinois.

  3. 3.  I couldn’t resist desperately googling this guy and found this page which honors Marty along with the scores of hard-drinking students of Eastern Illinois U.


  4. 4.  3 : Now I’ve turned to the Internet too, to see how long I’d have to drive to get a drink at Marty’s. (It’d take me three hours, which is kinda long, but maybe I could combine it with the trip to French Lick, Indiana, that I’ve been meaning to take for a while.)

  5. 5.  The bar sign seems to indicate Marty’s a lefty.

  6. 6.  In today’s market, Marty Pattin would be a multi-millionaire even though he looks about 55 and hungover in this picture.

  7. 7.  5 Maybe that’s the picture of Ray Liotta playing Marty Pattin.

  8. 8.  You could fold in a trip to Fox Ridge state park and “do a little math” of your own, too. (see Blues if You Want, William Matthews, 1989)

  9. 9.  7 : Ha!

    8 : I’ll try to track down that book of poems.

    1 I broke down and looked at Pattin’s page on baseball-reference too. In his last few seasons he pushed his win-loss record over .500. His last major league outing was a scoreless inning in the World Series. So he had a happy ending to his meandering spiral of a career, I’d say.

    But I still wonder what’s behind that door.

  10. 10.  [6:] He looks like New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. (This reminds me that I need to read A Fan’s Notes.)

  11. 11.  Holding himself upright with his glove hand firmly on his upper left knee, it appears as though Marty has been forced to remain in this hilarious pose for too long in the hot mid-day sun and is pointing at the photographer with his middle finger.

  12. 12.  The ensemble he’s wearing is still one of my favorite unis of all time.
    Pullover shirt with a no-bullshit KANSAS CITY across it, and the contrast of light and dark blue.
    Even Joe Zdeb looked like a Hall of Famer in that outfit.

  13. 13.  I happened to be flipping through my ancient copy of Ball Four – from 1971 – and realized I’d forgotten that Marty Pattin is in it, a member of the Seattle Pilots. There are a lot of references to his getting bombed (and occasionally pitching well, though these were the Pilots), and to his Donald Duck imitation (“his great routine is where he has Donald reaching orgasm”).

    Then I stumbled across this:

    “I had a long talk with Marty Pattin on the bus. He’s had a tough, interesting life. He’s from Charleston, Illinois, and his mother and father were separated when he was a baby and he was shipped off to live with his mother’s folks. He was still a junior in high school when his grandfather died, so he moved into a rooming house and tried to work his way through the rest of high school. It was there he met a man named Walt Warmouth who helped him get through school – not only high school but college. Warmouth owned a restaurant, and Marty worked there and got his meals there, and every once in a while he’d get a call from the clothing store in town and be told he could pick up a suit and a bunch of other stuff and it was all paid for. they never would tell him who had paid, but Marty knew anyway. “The guy was like a father to me,” Marty said. “And not only to me. He must have sent dozens of kids through school just the way he did me.” Marty has a masters degree in industrial arts, and when he can he likes to help kids. That’s why he signed up for the clinic.

    “What a terribly lonely life Marty must have had. Hell, it was a traumatic experience for me just going away to college and living in a dorm with a bunch of other kids. And here’s Marty, still in high school, living in a rooming house. Not only that, but he goes on to become an All-American boy, complete with all the good conventional values. Like he was telling the kids at the clinic that sure it was difficult to throw a ball well or be a good basketball player. It was difficult to do a lot of things, but that they were all capable of doing a lot of difficult things if they were willing to work hard and practice. I guess he ought to know.”

  14. 14.  13 : That’s awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing that passage, JL25and3.

  15. Seems Pattin settled in Lawrence, Kansas and coached at the University of Kansas after his playing days. But on October 3, 2018 he died at age 75, back in Charleston, Illinois “while at the home of a family friend.” His visitation was held at Charleston High School.

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