Looks like Al Martin never played at USC

Despite a story he has perpetuated for at least 10 years, Al Martin appears not to have ever played football at USC.

The issue arose when Martin, the Mariners' left fielder, told The Seattle Times in May that crashing into teammate Carlos Guillen during a Mariners game reminded him of a 1986 football game between USC and Michigan.

"For some reason, probably because I was young and dumb, I decided I could make a head-on stop of (Michigan's) Leroy Hoard," Martin said back then. "I hit him, or rather he hit me. You remember those big tree-trunk legs Hoard had? That's what hit me."

But after a source pointed out that USC had not played Michigan in 1986 or at all in the decade before the 1989 Rose Bowl, The Times began looking into whether Martin had actually played for USC.

The answer, it seems, is no. Coaches and players at USC and at Martin's high school in West Covina, Calif., say they have no knowledge of Martin ever attending or playing at the university, and USC has no record of him ever having enrolled, receiving scholarship money or played in a game. He also is not in any of the USC team pictures.

Still, the story of him attending USC on a football scholarship has been in baseball media guides in Pittsburgh, where he played from 1992 to '99, in San Diego last season and Seattle this year, in several newspaper articles over the years, as well as on television and radio broadcasts. The information for those accounts was provided by Martin.

When asked about the discrepancy a month ago, Martin told The Times he would provide proof the next day. That has not happened, and Martin has had no further comment on the record.

Mariners spokesman Tim Hevly, who spoke with a USC official, said he would remove the inaccurate information from the guide's next edition.

On another matter, Martin misinformed The Times during spring training when he said he had been exonerated from a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction that stemmed from a fight he had with a woman who claimed he had married her while he was still married to someone else.

A recent check with the prosecuting attorney in Scottsdale, Ariz., confirmed that he pleaded guilty, spent a night in jail and remains on probation until November 2002.

Martin has a one-year, $5 million contract with the Mariners.

Sports Editor Cathy Henkel and reporter Susan Kelleher contributed to this article. Henkel can be reached at 206-464-8278 or by e-mail at chenkel@seattletimes.com.