Odell Martin lived his dream

BLYTHEWOOD – For many folks in Blythewood, Odell Martin was just a great old guy who tooled around town in his ancient green pickup truck with his trusty Jack Russell Toby riding shotgun. He was a happy, friendly hometown guy who was content with his life in Blythewood.

Odell Martin and Toby

What many people may not have known, however, is that Martin had a past, a glorious past. When he was young, he was a major league baseball player, a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.

Martin, 86, died last week at his home in Blythewood, leaving behind not only his beloved Toby, but family, friends and many memories and stories of his glory days that are still passed around by those who knew him.

“He loved to talk about his days playing baseball,” his step-daughter Jeannie Blume recalled. “His high school coach, E. L. Wright once said, “Odell has splendid character and an excellent outlook on life that will take him where ever he wants to go.”

And it did. He went many places.

During high school, Martin played football and baseball but excelled in baseball. His pitching took his team to the state finals.

“Because of his great love of animals and nature, he once thought about becoming a veterinarian,” Blume said. “But he went with his baseball skills which gave him the chance to make a bid for fame and fortune. After graduation from Dentsville High School, he worked at his brother’s store while he kept practicing, day in and day out, trying to make his way into professional baseball.”

Odell Martin pitched for the Cincinnati Reds during the 1950s.

Finally, that break came. He first pitched for the Columbia Reds. Then all his dreams came true when the Cincinnati Reds picked him up.

“He had scrapbooks of his career and he loved to show it to friends and talk about the games. He had a natural talent,” Blume said. “He later played for leagues in Europe.”

After his baseball career ended, Martin went to work for and retired from Norfolk Southern Railroad. In his retirement, he loved to fish and garden and take his friends and family on his pontoon boat on Lake Wateree. But he still loved baseball and had a chance to live it again through his great grandson, Tyler Baker, who played for the Blythewood High School Bengals and is now a freshman at Coastal Carolina where he plays on the Club team.

“Tyler loved baseball just like his great granddaddy did, and Odell spent a lot of time working with Tyler,” Blume said. “He would go to all of Tyler’s games and drive his old green pickup truck right up to the field and all through the game call out instructions to Tyler – ‘Lean in to it, Tyler!’ ‘Choke up on it!’ “Hit that ball!’ They were very close and he was so proud that Tyler was playing at Coastal.”

Others in town remember Martin for the unique character that he was. After his wife, Jennie, died in 2012, Martin and Toby filled their days with a set routine. They would drive over to Bojangles for breakfast, then they might spend the morning hanging out at the BP station on Main Street or go shopping at the IGA where Odell would drive up to the front of the store, blow his horn, and one of the cashiers would bring the electric cart out for him. Then at lunch the two often stopped by Doko Smoke.

“Odell would blow the horn on the truck and Tony Crout would bring him out a barbecue sandwich,” Blume said. “Tony said Odell was his first and last drive-in customer.”

“Odell liked everyone, and I think most everyone who came in contact with him liked him, unless they were driving behind him. He never broke 15 miles an hour in that truck,” Blume said.

“We miss him, but we have wonderful memories and, of course,” Blume said, smiling, “we have his stories of when he played ball. Many people never realize their dreams, but Odell did. His came true.”