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Groz remembers the 2001 Mariners: The curious case of Al Martin

Al Martin's supposed football career came into question during the 2001 Mariners season. (Getty)

2001: A Baseball Odyssey – a weekly look back at the record-setting 2001 Mariners and the players who got them there.

The Curious Case of Al Martin

Every good story has to have a little bit of everything, and the 2001 Mariners season is no different.

Those Mariners had a game where they blew a 12-run lead to Cleveland, but if you are looking for weird, we present Al Martin. The M’s had acquired him at the trade deadline in 2000, and he was a solid left-handed bat who was quite an athlete – or was he?

Martin had a nice 2001 season, including a 1 for 2 night with a walk, RBI and two runs scored on July 27 as the Mariners waxed the Twins 11-4 to improve to 74-29. One month later, though, it got weird. Real weird.

Martin was listed in the Mariners media guide as having played college football on scholarship for two seasons as a strong safety at USC. It was in his previous teams’ media guides and had been the subject of several news stories over the years. In the spring of 2001, he told a Seattle Times reporter that a collision with Mariners shortstop Carlos Guillen had reminded him of tackling Michigan’s Leroy Hoard during a USC-Michigan game in 1986.

Turns out USC and Michigan didn’t play in ’86. And for good measure, USC had no record of Martin ever having even enrolled.

In late July, the Times told Martin about the discrepancy and he promised to produce proof the next day. They are still waiting. When confronted about the story again on Aug. 27 in Tampa, Martin said he would not talk about it. And he still hasn’t.

There is much more to Martin’s story as illustrated here in an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dated April 2, 2000.

It was the end of the times where you could get away with a potentially fabricated story of that sort, as of course it’s easy for anyone to get information about anything these days.

In other years, Martin’s supposed football career could have been a distraction, but nothing could stop the Mariners steamroller in 2001. But it’s still an unusual footnote that was soon forgotten.

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More 2001 Mariners memories from Groz

• Freddy García replaces the ace he was traded for
Kaz Sasaki and Seattle’s incredible bullpen
• Seattle hosts an All-Star Game for the ages
• The bounceback year of M’s Hall of Famer Dan Wilson
• Mark McLemore, the all-important 10th man
• Edgar Martinez cements his legacy with his last great season
• Aaron Sele, the pitcher who ‘fell from the sky’
• Bret Boone gave Seattle a huge, surprising boost
• Paul Abbott, the forgotten hero of the historic ’01 M’s
• Introduction: Celebrating the 2001 Mariners, 20 years later

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