Pedro Martinez. The newest Hall of Famer was one of my biggest nemesis growing up a New York Yankees fan. The fragile, little righty could pitch like no one else, especially in his time with the Boston Red Sox. He was a guy who you loved to hate, but secretly hated to admit you loved.
I had seen Pedro pitch at the old Stadium a few times. But in 2002, I got a call from a friend that had gotten free tickets from work to see the Red Sox at Fenway host the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (this is 2002, remember, they were still satanic). It was July, I was a teacher at the time, so having nothing better to do, I hopped in the car and took her up on the offer.
It was my first time in Fenway Park. I didn’t wear any of my Yankees gear, not because I am necessarily afraid, but they simply weren’t playing and I’m not that guy. I did want to see Pedro get shelled though. Man, did I see the complete polar opposite.
We were about 15 rows behind home plate, not too shabby for my first game experience at one of the most legendary dumps in the history of baseball. And I’m not saying that as a Yankees fan/ Red Sox hater. I think Red Sox players will agree that Fenway is a dump. It’s ancient. The ambience they have there is almost like they want you to feel like your in 1918 (remember in 2002, that was the last time they won).
I remember the first inning like it was yesterday. The top half of the first seemed like it took Pedro 30 seconds. After a 2-pitch ground out, he blew away the next two batters. Then, in the bottom half of the first, good ol’ Trot Nixon blasted a two run homer, driving in Johnny Damon and the game was over. No lie, it would be a massacre.
Pedro got in trouble once, ONCE, all night. I don’t even know why I say all night as it wasn’t even completely dark by the time we left. He let up a lead-off single to this young rookie playing in his seventh career game named Carl Crawford. He walked someone, I can’t remember who, but of course struck out the next batter and the inning was over. Two more batters would reach the entire game, and I’m pretty sure it was Randy Winn both times if my memory serves correctly!
Pedro would go 8 innings, allowing three baserunners (one on a rare walk) and strikeout 11. The entire game took just over two hours. My one and only experience at Fenway Park was shorter than sitting at a movie. At first I was pissed, but then I realized I saw the greatness that Pedro was, and I saw it on his turf.
Pedro somehow lost his bid at his fourth Cy Young that year to Barry Zito (imagine a young fan reading this and not being able to comprehend that Barry Zito was actually a Cy Young winner!). Martinez went 20-4 with a 2.26 ERA, 239 strikeouts and a microscopic 0.97 WHIP. He was insane.
But that was Pedro being Pedro. At his best he was untouchable, at his worst, you hoped to sneak by one run. And now he is in his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. He had an amazing career. I wish it wasn’t primarily on the Red Sox, even though my Yanks got some revenge in the 2009 World Series when they tagged him for 7 runs over his two starts with the Phillies. Always remember who your daddy is, Pedro.