He is in the Hall of Fame now, and there will be folks from Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia claiming they saw some amazing stuff from Pedro Martinez.
But he is ours. We had Pedro for the wonderful, dominant, Koufaxian middle of his career. Years from now, when folks sit in rocking chairs, drinking gin and tonics on the porch of Cooperstown’s Otesaga Hotel, they will talk of Pedro Martinez and his Boston days. Pedro goes down in history as a Red Sox.
Cy Young and Roger Clemens are the bookend winningest pitchers in Red Sox history, each registering 192 victories for the Carmine Hose, but all of you who were there forever will remember Pedro as the greatest pitcher in Red Sox history.
The side-by-side Sox numbers of Pedro and Roger are fascinating, given that Martinez was Clemens’s direct successor (Clemens left after 1996, Martinez arrived in ’98), but it would be hard to argue with Pedro’s seven-year stretch at Fenway.
From 1998-2004 — pitching at the height of the Steroid Era — Pedro went 117-37 with a 2.52 ERA and 1,683 strikeouts over 1,383⅔ innings. In 13 years, Roger went 192-111 with a 3.06 ERA and 2,590 strikeouts over 2,776 innings.
Sox fans certainly loved Pedro more than they ever loved Roger. In detailing the comparison of Boston aces, one always could get a cheap laugh by noting that on top of everything else, Pedro even spoke better English than Roger.
It is difficult to pick a singular highlight. But it sure is fun to try.
The fifth and deciding game of the 1999 AL Division Series against the Indians is always a great place to start. That was the night time stood still.
Pedro had strained his back at the beginning of the playoffs and was considered unavailable for the fifth game at Jacobs Field in Cleveland. Both teams were out of pitching. The Red Sox had scored 32 runs in Games 3 and 4, and Game 5 was 8-8 in the fourth inning when Pedro miraculously came out of the bullpen to stop the bleeding.
The Jacobs Field clock read 9:45 p.m. when Pedro came out of the pen and it never moved. Pedro pitched six hitless innings, the Red Sox won, 12-8, and the clock remained stuck on 9:45 deep into the night.
The 1999 All-Star Game featured the greatest collection of baseball talent ever assembled on one field. Ted Williams was the centerpiece of an emotional moment that featured 41 all-time legends, plus the American and National League All-Star teams. (When proceedings went too long for TV, this led to the famous Fenway PA announcement: “Would the greatest players of all-time please clear the field?”)
After the unforgettable ceremony and a dangerously low flyover — the pilots were trying to impress Ted — Pedro took the ball and did something that had never been done. He struck out the first four batters of the game. In all, he fanned five of the six he faced. Pedro was the All-Star Game MVP. Ted was impressed by that.
Later that year, when Pedro got jobbed out of the MVP by a couple of scribes who refused to vote for pitchers, Teddy Ballgame said, “I know just how he feels. That happened to me. I hit .400 one year. I thought that was pretty good.” Joe DiMaggio won the AL MVP award in 1941, when Ted hit .406.
Don Larsen, David Cone, and David Wells all pitched perfect games at Yankee Stadium, but most anyone who was there would tell you that the greatest game ever pitched in that ballpark was thrown by Pedro Martinez on Sept. 10, 1999. Pitching against the defending world champions, Pedro gave up one hit (a second-inning homer to Chili Davis), fanned 17, and walked none. He faced only 28 batters and fanned eight of the last nine batters he faced.
The off-the-field stuff was sometimes just as good. You probably remember, “Wake up the Bambino and I’ll drill him in the ass,’’ Nelson the Midget, the Mango Tree, “Who is Karim Garcia?,’’ “If you sneak into my house and I don’t know you, I will shoot you,’’ and “The Yankees are my daddy.’’
I have a couple of personal favorites.
Pedro and I had a lot of ups and downs through the years.
When Mo Vaughn came after me in the Sox clubhouse in 1998, Pedro playfully joined the chorus until he realized that Mo was serious. Always sensitive and smart, Pedro later took time to apologize, a rare thing for a professional athlete.
Pedro’s first Boston controversy came in August of ’99, when Jimy Williams bumped him from a weekend start because of Pedro’s habitual lateness. Pedro never forgave his manager. Five days later, Martinez exploded at Dan Duquette before a game, then appeared unusually calm after pitching against the A’s.
In my Globe account, I wrote that it was as if Pedro had been tased by a tranquilizer dart. Pedro made it quite clear that he was offended by the reference.
When Pedro came back to Fenway Park in a Mets uniform in 2005, he looked around at the crowd of reporters at his postgame press conference and asked for WBZ Radio’s Jonny Miller.
“Where’s Jonny?’’ said the ever-thoughtful Martinez.
We told Pedro that Miller was on the disabled list with some back issues.
Pedro nodded, looked directly at me, pointed, and asked, “How come he never gets sick?’’
Love you too, man.
No one was better, or more fun, than Pedro Martinez.
Hall of Famer.
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Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org