Former Kansas City Royals pitcher Marty Pattin, a major league All-Star in 1971 who won 114 games in a career that spanned 13 seasons, died Wednesday at the age of 75.
Pattin pitched for the Royals from 1974 to ’80 and also the California Angels, Seattle Pilots, Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox. He had lived in Lawrence since 1982 when he accepted a job as head baseball coach at the University of Kansas where he led the Jayhawks
from ’82 to ’87.
According to a source close to the family, the Charleston, Ill., native and 1965 Eastern Illinois University graduate died in his sleep in Illinois where he was visiting friends. Details on services are not yet available.
Pattin, who had fairly recent heart surgery that prevented him from attending Royals Opening Day, told a Kansas City Star reporter about a month ago that it was the first KC home opener he missed in 25 years.
“Marty was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met,” said Pattin friend and longtime Lawrence youth and semipro baseball coach/business owner Walt Houk. “I never heard him say a bad word about anybody.
“I ran into him at the grocery store about a week ago. He said, ‘With this little heart thing, I don’t know if I can get my arm up high enough to get my golf swing all the way through. I’ve got to get my clubs ready and get back out there,’’’ Houk added of avid golfer Pattin.
“He wasn’t quite ready to get back on the golf course,” Houk continued. “I’d sit with him in Perry (at Perry-Lecompton football games) where he was watching his grandson play. He didn’t miss any games. He was a great guy — a good friend.”
Pattin — he was known as ‘Duck’ because of his uncanny impersonation of Donald Duck — has remained an active Royals alumni member since his retirement in 1980. He attended Royals fantasy camp several winters in Arizona and, of course, living in the area attended many Royals games.
“This is a shock,” said former Royals outfielder Brian McRae, who was planning on playing college baseball for Pattin at KU had he not decided to sign a pro contract. He heard of Pattin’s death via the Royals on Wednesday.
“When I saw him last, he looked good. I know he’s had some health issues. It was the best I’ve seen him in a while,” McRae said of a recent meeting. “I’ve spend a lot of time with Marty and his family,” added McRae, a friend of Pattin’s sons. “I’d run into him at six, seven Royals events a year. He was a good man. He didn’t carry himself any differently or think he was better than anybody just because he pitched 13, 14 years in the big leagues. He would always brighten up around kids at camps. If somebody asked him to do his duck impersonation he’d smile and do it. That never wavered.”
Charleston High School officials named the school’s baseball field “Marty Pattin Field” in 2016.
He stayed home to attend college and after a successful career at EIU (his jersey No. 19 was retired in 2009), was selected in the seventh round of the 1965 draft by the California Angels. Pattin made his big league debut on May 14, 1968 by hurling a perfect inning against the Chicago White Sox. Pattin pitched his final game for the Royals in the 1980 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. In his final major league inning, he struck out All-Stars Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt. His own all-star appearance came as a member of the Brewers.
“In my generation, we all grew up wanting to play baseball like Marty Pattin,” Charleston, Ill., native Ken Baker told the Charleston Journal-Gazette/Times Courier in an article in 2016 written before the “Marty Pattin Field” dedication ceremony.
“We grew up with Marty in the majors. Now he will be remembered (by) the next generation and that’s the biggest thing,” added Baker, who helped organize the event. “To honor a person, no matter how successful he was or how much he achieved, he lived in Charleston. It’s only when he coached the Jayhawks that he moved out of Charleston. He lived here during his major league career. It’s his hometown and has always considered it his home town and always will,” Baker added to the paper.