There was one out in the seventh inning in the game between Lowell High School and Peabody on May 22nd, 1968 when a deep fly ball was hit towards center fielder Tim Green. Green remembers hearing a distinctive voice from the bleachers–Rodger Martin, sitting with Tim’s own father–lay out the stakes in a memorably blunt fashion.
“If you drop that, I’ll kill you!”
Tim Green did not drop the ball. Nor did Tommy Whalen, the star shortshop and future Pittsburgh Pirates draft pick who made the next and final play that sealed a historic victory.
The first perfect game in Lowell High School baseball history.
The pitcher that day was Rodger’s son, a young left-handeder named Brian J. Martin, and the leadership shown on the baseball diamond was precursor of distinguished leadership shown in a wide variety of public service roles throughout his career. On Saturday, June 23rd at the Stanley Stoklosa Alumni Baseball Field, Brian’s family, friends, colleagues, and 1968 teammates joined together to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic moment with the installation of a commemorative plaque and another LHS baseball first–a retired number.
Inducted into the LHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996, Brian Martin compiled a 16–5 career record with an E.R.A. of 1.44, while striking out 208 batters in 151 innings. Brian’s career batting statistics as an outfielder included a batting average of .338 with 5 home runs. Lowell High School advanced to the Massachusetts State Tournament in both his junior and senior seasons.
He would continue his standout baseball career at UMass Amherst, where he batted .322 for his career and set the Minutemen’s single season record by hitting .422 as a sophomore, en route to receiving many collegiate accolades including All-New England (1970), All-Yankee Conference (1970–1971), and team Co-Captain (1971–1972).
When injuries cut short his promising athletic career, Brian turned his attention to public service. Upon graduation from UMass, he worked as a teacher, coach, and administrator at Greater Lowell Technical High School before trying his hand at politics. In 1981, Brian won his first election to the Lowell City Council. Two years later, he was chosen as mayor. At 31, he was the youngest Plan E mayor in Lowell history at the time (Only Patrick Murphy, chosen in 2012 at age 29, was younger.)
After a successful council career, Brian switched gears to the administrative side of Lowell government, serving first as assistant city manager, before becoming the 13th city manager in Lowell history in 1995. His tenure as city manager saw the city’s construction of the Paul E. Tsongas Arena and Edward LeLacheur Ballpark.
After stints as president and general manager of the AHL’s Lowell Lock Monsters, athletic director at Lowell High School, and as the district director in the office of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Brian took on what Mayor William Samaras calls “the best job in the city of Lowell–headmaster of Lowell High School.” Brian served as LHS headmaster/head of school from 2013 until retiring at the end of the 2017 school year.
With rain starting to fall, the ceremony was moved into the batting cages, the podium placed right alongside home plate with Brian’s glove and a frame holding the original two lineup scorecards of the Lowell Peabody game prominently displayed.
Mayor Samaras spoke first. After listing and thanking Brian for his many professional accomplishments, fellow former LHS headmaster Mayor Samaras noted the unique connection that he and Brian now share.
“Now I don’t know if you really realize this, but Brian and I are members of a very exclusive club. We are the only people in Lowell to have served as both mayor and as headmaster. He was the first and I joined him earlier this year,” the Mayor explained before adding in reference to his recent first pitch experience, “But as anyone who saw me at opening day of the Spinners can attest, I think its safe to say, I will never pitch a perfect game,” drawing laughs from the assembled crowd.
Congresswoman Tsongas followed the mayor’s remarks with her own tribute to not only her former chief aide but also a very close friend.
“Brian is a great Lowellian…He showed it first in the no-hitter where he brought everything he had to the effort and showcased Lowell in the course of it, and virtually everything he’s ever done since then he’s demonstrated that same standard of excellence.”
City Councilor Dave Conway was a senior on the LHS baseball team in 1966 when Brian made his debut as a sophomore. Both were lefthanded pitchers. The younger southpaw must have made a good first impression on his teammate the upperclassman as Brian threw a no-hitter in his very first pitching performance, one of several others in addition to the perfect game. Councilor Conway recalled that game and several other memories from their time as teammates while also describing his dual passions.
“Brian has always had a love and respect for the greatest game in the world…baseball. But equally important, Brian has had a tremendous respect and love for Lowell High School and the City of Lowell.”
Speaking next was Green, who served as a representative of the 1968 team. He recalled highlights of the 2-0 game 50 years ago in great detail.
“Billy Ryan in the third inning drove in the winning run, just one run. That was the story of the game until the fifth inning, Billy Hoey–there was a hotshot down the third base, he knocked it down, got up and threw it over to Billy Ryan who made a wonderful, wonderful stretch–and we got the out. In the fifth inning, Kenny Cavanaugh was on third base, with two outs, he got the steal sign. The batter had two strikes on him. The batter swung, hit the ball, and Kenny scored, it was an infield hit.”
Finally, it was time for the guest of honor to give a few remarks.
Brian began by recalling the game in question,”To pitch a perfect game, you have to be lucky. The balls have to bounce your way and things just have to fall in place. That day it did.”
He then went on to mention his luck in having great teammates, coaches, parents, and family members. While the highlight of his own baseball career may have been the perfect game, Brian was even more proud to recall the accomplishments of his children.
When a steady drizzle started to transition to a downpour, Brian received help from a good friend and former colleague at the congressional office, Vanna Howard, who held an umbrella above him so he could finish his speech.
Brian closed with “a baseball story about life.”
“Sometimes life turns out for the best. Now maybe bad luck ends up being good luck after all. My two old roommates in the Cape Cod baseball league, they continued in professional baseball…they made professional baseball their life, which is what I thought I would do.”
“But when I got hurt, and couldn’t throw any more, I finally focused on school and I settled back in my hometown. I wouldn’t trade places with either one of my old friends. With what the community of Lowell has given me, I guess I would consider myself the luckiest guy in the City of Lowell.”
The City of Lowell is certainly lucky to have had Brian Martin, not only for the leadership shown during the perfect game he pitched, but the 50 years of leadership and service that have followed.