Leo J. Marentette, Jr.; 1941-2014: Mud Hens’ star pitcher played in big leagues


LAMBERTVILLE — Leo J. Marentette, Jr., a Toledo Mud Hens pitcher in the late 1960s, who in a decadelong professional baseball career made five major league appearances, died Thursday at home. He was 73.

He died in his sleep, apparently of a heart attack, his wife, Dawn, said.

His off-season job and, after 1970 his full-time year-round job, was as a dockworker with Roadway Express in Toledo. He retired in 1999.

Mr. Marentette was best known for his 1967-69 stint with the Mud Hens, especially his stellar performances in 1967 and 1968 Governors’ Cup playoff games.

When the Mud Hens said farewell in September, 2001, to Ned Skeldon Stadium in Maumee, the team invited Mr. Marentette to be among the alumni in the ceremony.

“He said it meant the world to him,” his wife said. “He said it felt like yesterday he was there.”

He was a 1959 graduate of Wayne High School west of Detroit. That summer, baseball scouts encouraged him to take part in a tryout camp.

“I warmed up and pitched to nine guys, and struck out nine,” Mr. Marentette told The Blade in 2006. The scouts followed him home, and he was signed to the Detroit Tigers organization.

He played with at least two teams a year through 1964 — Montgomery, Ala., and the Durham Bulls; Duluth, Denver, Knoxville, Syracuse. His favorite memories included the spring training in which he pitched two scoreless innings against the Giants, striking out Willie Mays, among others.

He pitched two games for the Tigers late in the 1965 season. He closed his career with the Montreal Expos organization and made three appearances with the team. Of his time in the majors, he said, “... No one can take [it] away from me.”

“He had so many great memories,” his wife said. “I’d have to say those were the best times of his life.”

He played amateur baseball in Toledo after his pro career and later was a first baseman for a slow-pitch softball team. He and his wife went to the Tigers’ opening day every year, and he followed the team all season. He attended several Mud Hens game a season too.

He was among a group of regulars who meet at Franklin Park Mall for conversation and lunch.

“He was always quick with a baseball story, and he had a plethora of them,” said Ken Rosenbaum, a Blade retiree.

Many became close friends through the daily gathering.

“We talked everything, and Leo was such an easygoing person,” said Jack Mattimore, a retired Whitmer High School coach and teacher.

He was born Feb. 18, 1941, in Detroit. He attended Crossroads Community Church, Ottawa Lake.

Surviving are his wife, Dawn, whom he married March 16, 1996; son, Leo III; daughter, Beth Fosgate; brothers, Tom and Mike, and two granddaughters.

Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Tuesday in Crossroads Community Church, Ottawa Lake, where services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Arrangements are by Weigel Funeral Home, Swanton.

The family suggests tributes to the American Diabetes Association.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.