Ex-Tulane player, SEC pioneer Steve Martin dies at 66

Tulane Sports Information photoFormer Tulane baseball player Steve Martin
Tulane Sports Information photoFormer Tulane baseball player Steve Martin

NEW ORLEANS — Former Tulane baseball player Stephen “Steve” Andrew Martin Sr., a pioneer in the desegregation of black college athletes in the 1960s, died Tuesday at 66, the school announced.

According to Tulane, Martin became the first black athlete to compete in a varsity sport for any Southeastern Conference school when he took the field in 1966 — the Green Wave’s final year in the SEC.

“Steve was a trend-setter and pioneer, who opened many doors for African-Americans when he donned a Tulane uniform and took the field for the first time in 1966,” Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson said. “Through his heroic determination, he helped break down a racial barrier and advance collegiate athletics. This is a sad day for the Martin family and the entire Tulane community, but I have no doubt his legendary actions will remain as one of the great moments in our university’s history.”

Martin hailed from nearby Marrero and prepped at St. Augustine High School, where he received the Purple Knight Award, the top honor presented to a senior.

Martin attended Tulane on an academic scholarship and was a member of the Green Wave baseball varsity squad from 1966-68 and the freshman team in 1965.

He made his Tulane debut against an SEC opponent when he played as a member of the freshman team at LSU on April 3, 1965. Martin had a sacrifice fly in the opener and an infield single in the second as Tulane split a doubleheader with a 4-0 win and a 3-1 loss.

A center fielder, Martin became the first black man to compete in a varsity sport for any SEC school when he played in his first game against Spring Hill College in the 1966 season opener. Tulane finished with a 17-7 overall record in the Green Wave’s final year as an SEC member.

During his varsity career, Martin played in 61 career games. He was a career .230 hitter with five home runs, 15 RBIs and was 4-of-4 on stolen base attempts. He was coached by Ben Abadie and Milt Retif.

Martin and his wife, Brigid Cheri Martin — also a Tulane graduate — were married for 43 years. The couple had three children — Stephen Jr., Nicole and Dana. All of them earned their college degrees from Tulane.

Born Nov. 2, 1946, Martin was a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Latin from Tulane in 1968 and his master’s in business administration from Tulane in 1973.

Martin later served in the Army and retired as the Chief Financial Officer for Tuskegee University last year.

The family will receive friends prior to a mass at 9 a.m. May 24 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Peachtree City, Ga.

A memorial mass will follow at 10 a.m. His burial will follow at 1 p.m. at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, Ga.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to St. Augustine High School (My Legacy Brick Campaign) in the name of Mr. Stephen Martin Sr., 2600 A. P. Tureaud Ave., New Orleans, LA 70119.