His brother Ramon wore No. 48 with the Dodgers, so Pedro Martinez asked for No. 47 when Los Angeles called him up to the majors for the first time in 1992. That number was taken, but No. 45 was available.
Close enough. Once Martinez learned that Hall of Famer Bob Gibson wore 45 with the Cardinals, he was hooked.
“Mad men on the mound, the men of low ERAs,” Martinez said. “I was pretty much the same way and we were wearing the same number.”
Now 45 will never be forgotten at Fenway Park. The Red Sox retired Martinez’s number on Tuesday during a ceremony befitting the new Hall of Famer.
Two days after he was inducted in Cooperstown, Martinez again heard his name chanted by the fans of Boston. As he loves to do, Martinez reveled in the moment.
“You will be linked to my heart. You will be linked to my life, forever,” Martinez told the cheering crowd.
That Martinez was the first Red Sox pitcher to have his number retired humbled a man who has no lack of confidence.
“It’s a unique opportunity to feel this, and I don’t know how to describe it,” Martinez said. “I get confused in the middle of trying to explain why. Why me? How?”
Jason Varitek was the last of a long list of luminaries introduced. He emerged from the dugout with his catcher’s mitt.
“I need you here with me,” Martinez told his favorite catcher. “This is my parade.”
Varitek caught the ceremonial first pitch from Martinez and the two hugged. Fittingly the pitch was high and inside. Pedro still owns the plate.
Red Sox principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, president Larry Lucchino, and general manager Ben Cherington represented the team during the ceremony.
Henry said a few months ago that one of the reasons his group purchased the team before the 2002 season was the presence of Martinez.
Martinez’s wife, Carolina, was seated to his left along with other members of his family.
‘You will be linked to my heart. You will be linked to my life, forever.’Pedro Martinez, to Red Sox fans
Former Red Sox teammates Orlando Cabrera, Jim Corsi, Lou Merloni, Trot Nixon, Curt Schilling, and Tim Wakefield were on hand. Nomar Garciaparra delivered a message via video.
“You don’t appreciate how great somebody is until you play with them,” Varitek said before the festivities. “There are so many memories. It’s an honor to take part in something like this.”
Wakefield presented Martinez with a $45,000 contribution from the Red Sox to his charitable foundation.
Another teammate, David Ortiz, said a few words praising Martinez before calling for No. 45 to be unveiled on the right field façade.
Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski — whose numbers were previously retired by the Red Sox — helped salute Martinez. So did another Hall of Famer, Dennis Eckersley.
Former Sox greats Dwight Evans, Tommy Harper, and Luis Tiant gave Martinez a 45 from the left field scoreboard. During his remarks, Martinez said Tiant should be considered for the Hall of Fame.
Martinez’s manager with the Montreal Expos, Felipe Alou, was on hand, too.
Most of the fans arrived early, wanting to see Martinez. He said the electricity in the park reminded him of the days when he pitched.
“I am fun. I am having fun. And I love to have them here,” Martinez said. “And I hope that they have the same feeling when they see that number. ‘Pedro? That’s Pedro. Oh, Pedro is always in a parade. Pedro is always happy. Pedro is always grateful.’ ”
Martinez thanked the team and, by name, mentioned clubhouse attendants and others behind the scenes.
He even thanked the team mascot, Wally the Green Monster.
“On Pedro Day, everybody is happy,” he said.
A large 45 was mowed into the outfield grass, just behind second base. The number also was stenciled into the mound, providing a reminder of the many great games Martinez pitched at Fenway.
Martinez’s new Hall of Fame plaque was on the field along with the World Series trophy from 2004 he helped win.
The Red Sox hung several Dominican flags around the park and dozens of others were waved by fans. A second ceremony, in Spanish, is scheduled for Wednesday.
For Martinez, the last few days are ones he hopes will resonate with others.
“There’s a sign of hope for everyone in this world. There’s someone that unexpectedly made it further than he ever dreamed,” he said.
“Because I never gave up. So I want to represent hope instead of greatness and achievements. I’ll take hope and faith and determination and hard work and dedication over all those things.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.