BALTIMORE, JUNE 4 -- In what has become a ritual since their 1983 championship, the Baltimore Orioles said goodbye to another famous veteran today when they announced that left-handed reliever Tippy Martinez, 37, had been released.
He has had shoulder problems since '83 and pitched in only 14 games last season. He had surgery on his left shoulder last fall, and, after seeing him struggle for five months, the Orioles gave up, believing he never regained much velocity on his fastball or the snap on what had once been a remarkable curveball.
In the latest of a number of such statements, Orioles General Manager Hank Peters said: "I'm sorry Tippy's career with us has to end because of physical problems. He's given us a lot since we got him from the Yankees 11 years ago, and he was certainly one of the biggest reasons we won the world championship four years ago."
Martinez was the best reliever the team ever had, with a team record 105 saves, 17 more than anyone else. He led the Orioles in saves for five straight years and was at his best in the second half of the '83 season after having a mid-season appendectomy. During the Orioles' 44-game run to the American League East championship in '83, he went 4-0 with 10 saves.
As his career with the Orioles ended today, he said all the right things about being appreciative and hoping to continue elsewhere. But his voice was tinged with anger.
"I'm not bitter at all," he said, "but I thought they handled it in a little bit of a weird way. I haven't even been contacted by the club. Some friends called and said they heard it on the radio. The other thing is that we'd told Mr. Peters if this was going to happen that we'd like to have a press conference to look people in the eye and say goodbye.
"I wanted to go in good terms and do it in style like Jim Palmer did it. I wanted to express my feelings for the Orioles. I had a great career, and it's just business right now that this has happened. I have no animosity toward the club, and I wanted the fans to know I appreciate their support through the good times and the lean times. We had the press conference set up, then the Orioles said they didn't want to do it. That didn't show me too much. I thought I at least deserved that."
The final argument between Martinez and the Orioles was over whether he was able to pitch at higher than Class A ball. The Orioles said no. He said he was, and wanted a 30-day tryout at Class AAA Rochester to prove it.
He also said he wanted a written agreement that, after 30 days, he would be released or brought to the big leagues. The Orioles said no. The team simply wanted to pay off the rest of this year's $475,000 salary and the $50,000 buyout for next year and be done with it.
"I still feel I can pitch," he said. "I think I need an extra month before I know for sure, but I feel my shoulder getting stronger . . . Now, I hope to sign a AAA contract with another team, but I'd want them to make a decision on bringing me up within 30 days."