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Martin's image probably is ruined forever

Sunday, April 02, 2000

By Chuck Finder, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Last of two parts.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Whenever the San Diego Padres' leadoff batter and left fielder stepped to the Peoria Stadium plate during the last week of spring training, he was met with sparse applause, scattered boos and detectable murmuring.

Al Martin's off-the-field problems didn't deter these autograph-seekers in Peoria, Ariz., after a Padres-Angels exhibition game last month. (Peter Diana, Post-Gazette) 

"He's all out of hits."
"The man has more patience than I do. He has two wives."

Al Martin most likely will steer clear of jail time or a lengthy baseball penalty, if any, lawyers in Arizona said. For the misdemeanor charges of domestic-violence assault and intimidation over the March 20 incident with wife Shawn Haggerty-Martin, he probably will receive probation and time in a diversionary program. If a felony charge of bigamy is sought in Arizona, where he resides, or Nevada, where his marriage to Haggerty-Martin took place, he again faces the likelihood of probation. And sanctions by either Major League Baseball or the Padres are rare in matters other than drug cases, and even the odd John Rocker suspension gets greatly reduced by an arbitrator.

    The Al Martin Story

Day One: 'It's a long fall from glory.'


In the court of public opinion, though, Martin might take a few broadsides.

"New York is not the best place to open up," Padres General Manager Kevin Towers said, only half-joking about San Diego's season-starting trip to Shea Stadium, where they play today at 1 p.m. "But he's got some thick skin. He'll be all right."

After a ground-rule double at Peoria, one fan mumbled something derisive about Martin collecting as many bases as wives: "a two-bagger."

San Diego fans, remember, are the folks who came up with a bumper sticker after a star first baseman, previously presumed to be a clean-living sort, was hit with a paternity suit: "Steve Garvey is not my Padre.

"The first thing out of people's mouths when you mentioned Al Martin before always was 'good guy,' 'nice guy,' 'character' ...," Towers said. "He's still a good person. But, I mean, his life is going to change. Regardless of whether [the allegations] are true or not, it's something he's going to have to live with."

The Padres

The front office of the San Diego baseball club is so concerned with maintaining a positive reputation, it publishes a glossy, color 24-page "San Diego Padres Community Report."

  Al Martin heads for the clubhouse after a recent exhibition game. (Peter Diana, Post-Gazette)

The booklet details the team's community involvement that began with the 1995 arrival of owner John Moores and president Larry Lucchino -- the Pittsburgh-raised lawyer who organized a potential ownership group for the Pirates before landing in San Diego. Padres employees plant palm trees, rebuild local ballfields, fund scholarship programs and launch their own cancer charities.

"We never had any off-field distractions such as this," Lucchino said. "Because we're very careful about who we bring in and put in a San Diego shirt, and because we've been lucky. We're very strong on this theme."

This strength caused Padres officials to probe deeply a month earlier, when trading John Vander Wal and two minor-league pitchers to the Pirates for Martin. "We didn't get any [negative reports] in Al's case," Lucchino said.

Given the nature of the image-conscious Padres organization, given the standard morals clause in a baseball contract such as the one that pays Martin $1.75 million this season and $6 million the next, the front office figures to wait and see how everything plays out -- the misdemeanor charges of domestic violence (the hearing in Scottsdale court is scheduled for April 12), and the potential for a felony bigamy charge (Scottsdale police are expected to request such a filing this week from the Maricopa County prosecutor's office).

Lucchino talked about Major League Baseball being first in line to deliver any possible sanction. Conceivably, the club could suspend Martin or attempt to void his contract, but the powerful Major League Baseball Players Association almost certainly would intervene on his behalf. The union filed a grievance for Rocker and helped to greatly reduce his suspension and fine over those infamous comments in Sports Illustrated.

"When the ultimate facts are determined, we have additional decisions about the person to be considered before we reach any conclusions," Lucchino said.

Added Towers, "We owe it to him a month from now to find out what we can."

Amid all this, Martin has met their expectations on the field.

Through 14 exhibitions, he was batting .333 with two home runs, six RBIs, three stolen bases, two sacrifice flies and a .556 slugging percentage.

He was firmly under the wing of Tony Gwynn, who boasted publicly that the left fielder might well produce a wondrous offensive season in 2000.

"I took him down to the cage and put him on a tee, told him the basics," Gwynn said. "In Pittsburgh, all he did was jump out and quick everything, instead of letting the ball get to him. I told him, 'I know we pitched you away, and you'd roll over it and be slamming helmets, mad at yourself.' He really has had to learn to do things right."

The first swing of spring, Martin crushed a pitch from San Francisco's Livan Hernandez into the center-field screen 430 feet away in Scottsdale Stadium. "Halfway up the screen, too," Gwynn marveled. "And that's a pretty big ballpark. Boy, the ball just jumped off his bat."

Added Towers: "He's had a heck of a spring. He's been great. He's even taken over a leadership role in the clubhouse since he's been here. And to go out and hit a double and a single [in his first post-arrest game March 23] with all that was going through his mind ..."

In the minds of fans and baseball followers, Martin wears a different number than with the Pirates (20 instead of 28) and a less-immaculate reputation.

Lucchino and his general manager agree that, in many ways, the folks in the stands may find substance-abuse problems such as Darryl Strawberry's more quantifiable, more comprehensible, than such individual issues as Martin's.

"This is the most personal zone of one's life, and this is the area that's always the hardest to know about," Lucchino said. "You hear if someone has a drug problem. You don't often hear about the private side of family life."

"When something happens to a player known as a good guy -- like Al -- it knocks people back, 'Wow,' " Towers added, leaning backward for emphasis. "It would be like something happening to Tony Gwynn in San Diego."

No it wouldn't, Gwynn replied. Nothing would ever happen.

"Because I'm a good guy," he said with a grin. Then, more seriously, he added: "I can't even imagine."

The husband

Al Martin's image?

"In 24 hours, it all went down the tubes," he said upon his return to Padres spring training. "I don't sit here and try to be a role model. I'm human like anybody else. I hurt like everybody else."

That these travails would befall him in the Valley where he made his home nine years ago, that they would happen one month after a trade he so desired, cut him the deepest.

"This trade, this career move, was something I dreamed about," said Martin, who would have been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks the spring before, had it not been for Bernard Gilkey declining to report to the Pirates.

"This was the best thing that ever happened to me. Then, four weeks later, after people have laid it on the line for you, something like this happens, and I think it made it just that more [much] more dramatic to deal with."

Martin married Catherine Carita Young April 8 1991, during spring training when he was with the Atlanta Braves, inside the Palm Beach County Courthouse. He had met the former college basketball player two years earlier, while playing in Durham, N.C. They had Brandon in June 1991.

The Martins moved into the first of four Valley homes the next off-season. Soon after new contracts in 1992, 1993 and 1996, they purchased larger houses and more exclusive addresses, settling since 1996 in the Scottsdale area on Phoenix's east side.

Two years ago, the Martins purchased a sprawling, $1.18 million home on a 2.5-acre lot in the gated community of Canada Vistas and then bought the empty lot next door for $225,000. In February, he bought a home south of Scottsdale for his father.

Cathy came to spring training in Bradenton, Fla., and to Pittsburgh until last season, when she hardly was spotted at Pirates games. Pirates teammates past and present claimed they had no clue of any trouble at home. Same for his agent.

Then came the stories two weeks ago: a domestic-violence incident at a rented house, a second wife, threats that he would "O.J." the woman.

"I just knew nothing about anything," said agent Joe Bick, whom Martin fired last year. The two remain friendly. "If you saw the picture in USA Today [and other newspapers across the country], it's not the Al you or I know. It's beyond comprehension to me. I feel awful for Al and his family. But I want to know what really happened or not before I react to it."

"Me and Tony talked about it," Turner Ward said from the Diamondbacks' clubhouse at Peoria Stadium, just before he, Tony Womack andformer Pirates teammate Jay Bell played against the Padres in Martin's first game after the arrest. "I'm sure everybody's talking about it. It made you realize you don't know the whole story.

"A lot of times as players, you just don't bring [your personal life] to the park. Not too many people did [know Martin away from baseball].

"Sometimes, you want your private life to stay private. And, sometimes, in this game, you don't have that luxury."

Womack declined comment.

Bell spoke briefly before driving away from the stadium: "Certainly, Al's done something that nobody condones, and he's going to have to pay for that."

The wife (No. 2?)

Everyone will suffer.

So says Shawn Haggerty-Martin, the Sarasota, Fla., woman who wedded Martin in a Las Vegas chapel on Dec. 11, 1998 -- the day before her 30th birthday. She and her daughter from a previous marriage, Brittney, 13, moved to North Scottsdale around Thanksgiving to be closer to Martin. They shared a rented house 7 miles north of the Canada Vistas home where Cathy and Brandon lived.

"I feel like everybody's a loser," she said. "Cathy is a loser, and he has a son who has to deal with this. I'm a loser. Al's a loser.

"It's sad all the way around."

To go back to their beginning is to go back about five years. Shawn Haggerty was returning home after visiting friends in the Phoenix area when she first met a baseball player named Al Martin at Sky Harbor International Airport. They parted ways a few hours later in Atlanta, Martin heading to New York on what she called baseball-union business during the strike, Haggerty heading to Sarasota -- where she ran the family's employee-leasing business, she said.

The next day, she added, Martin flew to meet her in Sarasota.

"When I met him, he was separated and getting a divorce," Haggerty-Martin remembered. "Then he told me the divorce was final, blah, blah, blah."

That was her understanding when the two traveled to Las Vegas in December 1998. They went to the Clark County courthouse, where each signed a marriage certificate (she said she didn't watch him autograph the document, which has been listed incorrectly under the name of Albert C. Martin). Then they crossed Bridger Street to The Chapel by the Courthouse. There, she said, they exchanged vows and gold wedding bands, then stopped for a wedding photograph afterward -- both clad in sweaters and slacks.

In the course of their investigation about the March 20 family fight, the Scottsdale police found out about the wedding ceremony, which Martin told them -- according to the police report -- "he did not think ... was real."

He admitted to having a five-year relationship with her, but nothing more.

As Haggerty-Martin tells it, the new bride lived with the groom part-time in Sarasota before and during spring training at Bradenton and occasionally whenever she traveled to see him. She said she last worked three years ago as a paralegal and for the family business. In the meantime, she said, she helped Martin with his legal affairs: the two children he had with Shelly Y. Dillard in Kansas, a child Haggerty-Martin said he had with a woman named Kim in Florida.

"That's stuff I was working on for him," she said. "I don't even know if he knows who his attorney is in Kansas. It's all [documents] that I have and he needs.

"I stood by Al through a lot. Check the dates on the kids in Kansas [1997 and 1998], so you can see my life wasn't rosy with him, either. It's something that I talked about and argued about."

Haggerty-Martin talked about spending time with Martin in his Franklin Park home last summer and, after notarizing the deed on the sale by "Albert L. Martin and Catherine C. Martin, husband and wife," she and the player went looking for a home in Sewickley Heights for the 2000 season.

Yet she and Martin "kept our fingers crossed that we were going to get traded," she said.

"Our relationship continued to grow and grow. We got married. I lived in Florida, and Al lived in Arizona. So I made the move."

She took Brittney from what she termed a "gifted" children's school in Florida. She moved herself, Brittney and a Scottsdale-area nanny named Summer into the rented house with Martin, but their time together proved fleeting. He would mention going to see Brandon, his 8-year-old son with Cathy, and return to the rented house late at night.

"When I moved here, that's when everything started coming together with me," Haggerty said. "It was bizarre."

It erupted into arguments time and again, she said, and turned violent on March 20. Then came their arrests and appearances in Scottsdale court. Their mug shots appeared in newspapers across the country on March 22. That same day, she returned to court and received a year on probation, which doesn't start until she successfully completes a diversionary program for domestic non-violence. That also was the day Haggerty-Martin accidentally wrecked the Mercedes Benz leased in their names, she said.

"It baffles me that I've taken big steps in my life, and I'm sideswiped," she said, referring not to the accident but the entire ordeal. "It's still a shock. I don't know what comes next.

"I don't want to ruin Al's career. I don't want to hurt Al. And I don't want to come across like a bimbo. I thought I had a marriage to somebody. I thought I had a life with somebody. I planned a life with Al."

Legal experts in Arizona contend that she has no rights to community property or a divorce agreement should Martin be found a bigamist. What matters most to Haggerty-Martin, she said, is that everyone gets on with their lives.

"I love the person who I thought he was," she said. "Right know, I don't know who he is. He has to do right by himself first."

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