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Mike Martin sets career wins record among college baseball coaches

It is Mike Martin's turn at the top. Saturday night, his Florida State Seminoles beat Clemson, 3-2, in 13 innings and moved their coach to the top of the college baseball career coaching wins list with 1,976.

The college baseball wins record has stair-stepped it's way along, just as the college football wins record did.

Amos Alonzo Stagg held the mark that Bear Bryant chased for years, and finally caught him with a win over Auburn in 1981. In 1985 Eddie Robinson passed The Bear, and he held the wins record until Joe Paterno caught him in 2011. Meanwhile, John Gagliardi was piling up 489 wins at Division III St John's in Minnesota.

The college baseball version of the wins record started with legendary Fordham coach Jack Coffey, who was the first to pass the 1,000-win mark in a career that spanned from 1909 to 1958. USC legend Rod Dedeaux passed Coffey and finished his career in 1986 with 1,342 wins, and it was Cliff Gustafson who took the lead in 1994.

Ironically, Augie Garrido passed Gustafson and moved into the career wins leadership with a 2003 superregional victory over Florida State and Mike Martin in Tallahassee. Garrido, who passed away in March, finished his career in 2016 with 1,975 wins.

Gordie Gillespie, like Gagliardi in football, was who they were all chasing when the list broadened to include small-school coaches. Gillespie retired in 2011 with 1,893 NAIA wins and Augie caught him in 2014.

Martin's time as a Seminole began as the center fielder for the 1965 Seminoles. At Wingate College in North Carolina, he had led his team to the 1964 NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado. For his efforts on the year, he was named to the NJCAA "All-Star baseball team" so his arrival in Tallahassee was anticipated.

Martin has faced the University of Miami over 200 times as a coach, at least 50 more than against any other opponent. It was foreshadowing that his first games as the centerfielder for the 1965 Noles were against the Canes. He led them to a 2-0-1 finish that weekend in Coral Gables, plus a win two days later against Florida Southern.

The March 16, 1965, Tallahassee Democrat read:

   "Ninth inning heroics seem to come as a matter of course for Florida State centerfielder Mike Martin. Yesterday was no    exception as the Seminoles defeated a tough Florida Southern team 4-3.

   In the second game of a doubleheader against Miami Saturday, Martin homered in the ninth to put the Seminoles    ahead in a game which was eventually called because of darkness with the score tied, 9-9.

   Yesterday he raced far back into the outfield to make an over-the-head catch of Doug Priester's drive, saving a victory    for FSU.

   Martin, a whip-like 6-0, 165, has established himself as a star though he has never appeared before the home fans.    The Charlotte, N.C., junior has eight hits in 15 times at bat, two of them home runs."

His FSU playing career was distinguished. He finished with a career OPS over .900 and a .352 batting average. The Noles record in his two years as a player was 71-24-1. His 1965 team advanced to the College World Series, although Martin missed the latter part of the regular season and the postseason with a broken arm. The '66 Noles also advanced to the NCAA playoffs.

He crossed paths with Roger Staubach, who patrolled left field for Navy as the Midshipmen swept a doubleheader from the Noles in March of '65, with both games ending with the score of 1-0.

His first win as head coach also came against Miami in Coral Gables, and it took place on the same day that the 1980 USA Hockey Team clinched the gold medal at Lake Placid. One of the catchers that day was Craig Ramsey, who handed him the ball after his first win. Craig's son, James, had two hits in his 1,700th career win in 2012. The opposing coach that day was Ron Fraser, who was also the opposing coach in Martin's first win as a player and would go on to be an inaugural inductee of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.

He also coached one of the best college catchers ever in Buster Posey. Posey is one of four National Players of the Year he tutored, joined by JD Drew, Mike Loynd and Jeff Ledbetter. He also coached Deion Sanders and Jameis Winston.

Consistency has marked his tenure in Tallahassee. It began with the winning percentage during his playing years of .743. As head coach, he has a winning percentage of .736.

The Noles have a 40-year streak of winning at least 40 games. Thirty-eight of those 40-win seasons belong to Martin. His teams have won 50-plus games 24 times. That record is remarkable for a variety of reasons. Before the 56-game regular season limit came into place in the early '90s, it was common for teams to play 60 to 70 ballgames. Reaching the 40-win plateau at that time for a good team was common. But in the 56-game era, it is a tough number to reach, especially with Florida State entering the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference around that same time as the game-limit came into effect. LSU and Louisville have 40-game winning streaks of six years, which is the next-longest active streaks of 40-win seasons.

The next closest active coaches to Martin are Jim Morris, who is in his final season at Miami and started the season with 1,566 wins. Mike Fox at North Carolina and Paul Mainieri at LSU recently passed the 1,400 win barrier.

Martin's teams have played in 16 College World Series, and in the 20 years since the super regional format was introduced, his teams have advanced to that round 16 times.

The national championship has eluded him for now, but his legacy is in place.

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