COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The matching T-shirts Alexis Santana and his family wore said it best: Todos Somos Martinez, roughly translated to “We are all Martinez.”
That was the sentiment Red Sox great Pedro Martinez’s Dominican Republic countrymen joyously expressed as he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday. It wasn’t just Martinez taking his place in the game’s Mount Olympus, but an entire nation swelling with pride for a national hero carved from America’s national pastime and a game that can serve as a Dominican lifeline.
As much as Martinez means to Red Sox fans, as many memories and thrills as he provided, it was evident from his raucous induction speech that he means so much more to his fellow Dominicans. He is a symbol of hope, achievement, and rising above humble roots.
Every time his gilded right arm threw a pitch it delivered the Dominican equivalent of President Barack Obama’s famous campaign motto — Yes We Can.
Todos Somos Martinez was written on the homemade T-shirts of the 28-year-old Santana and his family, all of whom traveled from Monte Plata, Dominican Republic, to the pastoral home of the Baseball Hall of Fame to see Martinez’s moment. It was also echoed throughout the bilingual speech of Martinez.
His numbers speak for themselves. So, Martinez, who spent seven dazzling seasons in a Red Sox uniform, collecting two of his three Cy Youngs and a World Series ring in 2004 while electrifying Boston baseball fans and diversifying Fenway’s fan culture, spoke for his people.
“I would like all of you to not look at me as numbers, as baseball, as achievements,” said Martinez during his approximately 32-minute speech. “I would like you to actually see me as a sign of hope for a Third World country, for Latin America, someone that you can really look up to and feel comfortable enough to say, ‘I’m proud of you.’ ”
Todos Somos Martinez.
Martinez summed up what his induction means with the precision and command he displayed on the mound. “It’s a great moment, not only for me, for my family; it’s a great moment for the Dominican Republic and Latin America.”
Martinez was the 10th Red Sox player inducted (owner Tom Yawkey is also enshrined). The Red Sox now have the oldest and the youngest living Hall of Famers in 97-year-old Bobby Doerr and 43-year-old Martinez.
But Martinez is only the second player from the Dominican Republic to get the Hall call, following legendary San Francisco Giants ace Juan Marichal (Class of 1983).
The Red Sox legend ended his speech by bringing Marichal to the front of the stage with him to hold a Dominican flag, a poignant and pride-laden visual for the island nation that spoke to its contribution to baseball.
Sunday was Father’s Day in the Dominican Republic, and Martinez said his picture with Marichal was his Father’s Day gift to his homeland.
It was also a rebuke to folks like former ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd who demean and disparage the Dominican Republic for what it may lack, instead of recognizing the remarkable passion and perseverance of its people.
“It’s a matter of pride to see Pedro and Juan Marichal in the Hall of Fame. It’s a celebration for the whole country,’’ said Henry Reyes, while waving a large Dominican flag. “[Pedro’s induction] is an achievement for the whole country. It is something to share as a sign of hope and a better future.”
Reyes, a native of Santiago Province in the Dominican Republic who now resides in Toronto, drove down for Martinez’s speech.
Martinez’s address was the most anticipated of the day. Pedro was part of the largest Hall of Fame class since 1955, enshrined along with Houston Astros great Craig Biggio, Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, and intimidating five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson.
Pedro batted cleanup for the Class of 2015, which meant it wasn’t until 4:08 p.m., 2 hours, 38 minutes after the ceremonies commenced, that Martinez took the microphone. That did little to damper the enthusiasm of his supporters, both those from Red Sox Nation and his nation of birth.
Martinez’s induction had the festive atmosphere of one of his appointment-viewing starts at Fenway during his days as the Red Sox ace/resident mound master.
There were chants of “Pedro, Pedro, Pedro” and a sea of Dominican flags in the crowd of 45,000. Martinez remarked that “the Dominican parade is here.”
He also paid homage to the Fenway Faithful: “Boston, I don’t have enough words to say how much I love you.”
The feeling is mutual.
There had been several eloquent paeans to Pedro leading up to Sunday, but his greatness strains any language. His career winning percentage of .687 (219-100), second only to Whitey Ford among pitchers with 200 wins, and status as the only pitcher with 3,000 career strikeouts who pitched fewer than 3,000 innings hint at it.
We were blessed to see the best of Martinez. In seven seasons in Boston, he was 117-37 with a 2.52 earned run average.
Pedro was an artiste. His baseball brushstrokes were inimitable. He painted in pitches, and it was pure genius.
So, it was not surprising that even Pedro struggled a little bit to sum up his career. His speech was heartfelt with a powerful message for his fellow countrymen, but it was also a bit meandering.
“There are so many things that I would like to say that I don’t know that I will find the words in Spanish or in English, but my God I’m thankful,” Martinez said.
However, Martinez’s inspirational message was unmistakable in any language. It’s woven in his journey from the shadow of a mango tree in Manoguayabo to baseball’s Valhalla.
“They said Pedro was too small. He defied the odds. Every kid in my country will try to follow him and defy the odds,” said Reyes.
Todos Somos Martinez.