Pedro Martinez as good as ever in his new book
He wrote it with the Herald's Mike Silverman. The official publication date is Tuesday. He has a signing at the Barnes & Noble at the Prudential Thursday. And you might be able to hunt him down to sign your copy if you make the trek to Cooperstown, N.Y., in July. It will be worth it.
Unless you are old enough and were lucky enough to have seen Sandy Koufax in the first half of the 1960s, Pedro Martinez's performance with the Red Sox in 1999 and 2000 is probably the best pitching you have ever seen. For those of us who got to cover him every day, he will always be one of the most fascinating, charming, and downright fun characters who ever walked across the ancient clubhouse at Fenway Park.
Nobody was smarter. Nobody had a longer memory. Nobody was more of a diva. And nobody was greater.
And it's all here in 317 tidy pages.
When you cover the Red Sox for a newspaper that is owned by the owner of the Red Sox, you are accustomed to making disclosures, so I'll get mine out of the way here: “Pedro” is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which also published several books authored by yours truly.
“Pedro” the book is as smart, as funny, and as diva-esque as Pedro the pitcher. He carries grudges better than any athlete you have ever encountered. He makes himself the hero of all of his stories. He reinvents some history when it is convenient. And best of all, he tells you what he really thinks about folks like Curt Schilling, Joe Kerrigan, and maybe a couple of sportswriters.
Throughout the book, Pedro keeps reminding you that “nobody truly wanted me.”
He tells us a fascinating story of getting a valuable pitching tip from Hall of Famer Don Drysdale on the very day that Drysdale was later found dead of a heart attack in his hotel room.
He occasionally speaks in code. Describing former teammate/catcher Mike Piazza, Pedro writes, “By 1993, boy, could he hit. Like so many hitters that decade who found sudden success at the plate, he had added some weight and bulked up that lanky frame of his. His bat started to fly!”
Translation: Piazza was juicing.
He tells us he didn’t like Schilling because of a 1996 Expos-Phillies brawl in which Pedro claims Schilling grabbed a gold chain that was around Pedro's neck.
“All that Schilling remembers from that fight is that he was trying to kill me,” writes Pedro. “He was starting to succeed — the chain was choking me — when finally Uggie Urbina, my teammate, told me to let [Mike] Williams go."
Describing then-Expos pitching coach Kerrigan, Pedro writes, “In 1997 Joe Kerrigan took his batting dummies with him to the Boston Red Sox. I can't say I was sad to see him go.”
He writes about getting roughed up by one Fenway fan after a bad start in 1998 and vowing, “From that day forward, I would never tip my hat at Fenway . . . The respect had not been there, so there could not be mutual respect.”
He writes, “In 2000 I was the alpha male of the American League.”
What's not to love about that sentence?
On Manny Ramirez, Pedro writes, “Just because we were teammates did not mean any of us understood Manny better than anybody else did.”
He says he went nutty on Yankees catcher Jorge Posada during the 2003 playoffs because Posada cursed Pedro's mother. He says he got death threats after he shucked Don Zimmer to the ground at the end of that fracas.
On pitching the eighth inning in New York in Game 7 of that ALCS, Pedro devotes a couple of pages to burying Grady Little and explaining why he should not have been out there (“I was all done”), then concludes, “I knew Grady had made a bad decision but . . . I could not blame my manager for the outcome. It was not Grady's fault. I didn’t execute . . . The blame was my own.”
Good accountability there. Sort of.
On leaving the ballpark early during his first start in Baltimore in 2004 (Terry Francona's first game), Pedro writes, “To this day I don't remember leaving early . . . Whatever I did wrong, I know Tito took a lot of heat for it, because he fell on his sword for me in his first game as manager, saying that he didn’t explain the rule to me about not leaving. Honestly, I don't remember if I did leave early or not, but I know I apologized later to Tito for it.”
Regarding his strange inning of relief in Game 7 in the iconic 2004 ALCS, Pedro writes, “I pitched one brief, odd, and unsuccessful inning of relief, but we held off the Yankees in each game.”
Francona contends, “Pedro had come to me before the game and said he wanted to pitch out of the bullpen.”
Whatever. It's all great. It's always great with Pedro. No more spoilers from me, but there's a doozy of a story on page 239.
Buy the book. Read the book. Celebrate a golden era in Boston baseball.
Follow Dan Shaughnessy on Twitter at @dan_shaughnessy