Marty Takes to the Air (book excerpt)

Trains, planes, and automobiles, and buses. Marty traveled a lot as baseball player and manager with the Dodgers’ organization and putting on tennis clinics and selling the ball machine for Prince. Here’s an excerpt from his upcoming book on an early adventure he had in the air.

The Dodgers had their own plane to fly the big league team around the country, a DC-3 that had been repurposed from the war. They also used it to shuttle minor leaguers from spring training in Florida at the start of the season to their minor league teams across the country. I found myself on one of those flights with my new teammates, headed to Greenwood, Mississippi, and the Cotton States League. “Bump” Holman, the young pilot, invited me to sit in the jump seat right behind him and the co-pilot. I was so shy I felt more comfortable there than sitting with my teammates. When the co-pilot had to relieve himself, Bump asked me to sit in the co-pilot’s seat and fly the plane. I was 19 years old and flying the Dodgers plane.

I didn’t know at the time that you made passengers more comfortable by flying the airplane straight. My teammates were sicker than hell and began shouting words I’d never heard before, demanding that I relinquish my chauffeuring duties immediately.

“Get that SOB out of there!” “What the —- are you doing? Trying to kill us all?!”

I responded by shouting some choice words back to them, defending my airplane-flying ability. I don’t remember exactly what they were—or don’t want to repeat them here—but I do know that my vocabulary expanded dramatically on that flight.

That crazy experience started to bond me with my Greenwood Dodgers teammates. I was starting to learn more about how to lower barriers between me and the rest of the world.

Once down on the ground, I took another step forward in my initiation into professional baseball. Chuck Lamberti, a pitcher from Albuquerque, small and skinny as a toothpick, had been in the minors for a while. He was a Bobby Riggs–type, a big talker, a bit of a con man. He talked me into playing pool. I hadn’t swung at a single pitch as a Greenwood Dodger, and I was minus my first paycheck.