In April 1949, Marshall "Marty" Carlson signed a contract with the New York Yankees organization.
"I gave myself five years to reach the top," Carlson told the Des Moines Register in March 1961. "After playing minor league ball for five years, I asked the Yankees for a big raise or to be sold. They refused. So [in spring 1954], I quit."
But Carlson, who was a sophomore at Drake University in Des Moines when he signed the contract, didn't hold a grudge.
"I have no quarrel with the Yankees. They thought they had too much invested in me when I wanted to become a free agent," said Carlson. "My bonus actually paid for my education. I returned each winter and studied at Drake until I received my degree."
After getting his college degree, Carlson had a long career as a high school teacher and coach.
Carlson, who lived in Edina, died on Jan. 13. He was 91.
Carlson was born in Chicago and raised in Des Moines, where he attended East High School. He didn't play baseball in high school, but when he was 15, he started playing on local semi-pro baseball teams with his father, Lesley, and brother, Lesley Jr., who played two years of professional baseball before an arm injury ended his career. In 1944, he played on the team that won the state semi-pro title and the next season he played on the state runner-up.
He lettered in basketball, football and track for East and was a two-time All-City selection in basketball. After graduation in 1946, he spent 14 months in the Army. While stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., he played basketball and baseball. After his military service, he enrolled at Drake, where he lettered in baseball and basketball.
In April of 1948 Des Moines Register columnist Maury White wrote of Carlson: "[The] 20-year old blond with the crew cut is a shy guy, and doesn't like to talk about himself."
Carlson started his professional baseball career with the Yankees' farm team in Quincy (Ill.). Over the next four years he reached Triple-A (the top minor-league level) with the Yankees' Kansas City farm team. For his career, he batted .266. In two years at the Triple-A level, he hit .284.
"If I had to do it over, I believe I would have been an infielder," Carlson told the Des Moines Register in 1961. "I was not big enough [5 feet 11] to be an outfielder or strong enough to hit the long ball." He hit 14 home runs in five minor-league seasons.
After leaving professional baseball, he returned to Drake and earned his degree. After graduation in 1954, he started teaching world history and coaching basketball at his high school alma mater.
In 1963, after nine seasons at East, he accepted a teaching job at Bloomington High School as a social studies teacher and assistant baseball and basketball coach. The school was renamed Bloomington Lincoln in 1965, when Bloomington Kennedy High School opened.
"He was a very talented individual and a nice person," said Gene Wise, who coached and taught at Lincoln. "He was a quiet person. He never talked about himself."
Eden Prairie High School football coach and activities director Mike Grant, who graduated from Bloomington Lincoln and was coached by Carlson, said Carlson was a "great guy and really outstanding coach."
Lincoln High School closed in 1982, and Carlson spent a year at Bloomington Jefferson before retiring. In retirement, he became a certified tennis instructor and played piano at his church. His musical talents were on display in 1951 when he played the piano during a pregame program in Beaumont, Texas, before one of his minor league games.
Carlson is survived by daughters Deanna and Paula and two grandchildren. Services have been held.
Joel Rippel • 612-673-4719