Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Greatest

Today, Pedro Martinez formally takes his rightful place among baseball's all-time legends. In actuality, he's been there for years.

Perhaps my favorite athlete in the years since I crossed the line from boy to man (it's an indistinct line, really), Pedro remains for me one of the most compelling examples of athletic arrogance, that indefinable but obvious quality that separates the greats from the mere goods. Though he stood just 5'11 and weighed less than 190 pounds, he was an intimidating as Randy Johnson in his own way, his countenance and bearing telling hitters that he knew that they knew they had no chance.

In honor of this day, and his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, we're running back something we wrote about him four years ago. Viva Pedro.

April 8, 2011:


I took the kids to the National Portrait Museum last weekend. Ostensibly, the trip was part of our ongoing effort to fight against the perfectly natural urge to completely take for granted the immensely interesting and diverse cultural opportunities in our area. But Daddy had an ulterior motive.

Peter Gammons called it "duende", from the Spanish word that, roughly translated, means having soul, an authentic expression of emotion. I always loved that description as attached to Pedro Martinez, the most remarkable athlete in my experience as a fan. Pedro's duende manifested itself in a loose-limbed, heavy-lidded arrogance, as this slip of a man whipped a baseball from his long fingers towards the artificially-muscled sluggers of his day, besting them again and again.

In 1999, at the height of the steroid era, Pedro was 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA, 313 strikeouts and 37 walks. His ERA in 2000 was a ludicrous 1.74, more than 2.5 runs lower than the league average. From 1997 to 2003, he strung together what Gammons describes as "the most dominant stretch of any pitcher in major league history".

Like many of the greats, Pedro held on long enough for us to watch his gifts diminish. And though he was still more than serviceable in his final years with the Mets and Phillies, he wasn't Pedro. Nobody could be.

Gammons himself donated Susan Miller-Havens' portrait of Pedro to the National Portrait Gallery, where it hangs today in a wing of other new additions to the museum's collection, near Ann Landers and a tribute to Hunter Thompson. In it, Pedro wears a Sox cap with a uniform of indeterminant provenance that features a Dominican flag, combining his U.S. glory days with the work he continues to do in his native country.

Duende, it seems, stays with a man.

14 comments:

TR said...

Is this gonna help the value of the six Ramon Martinez rookie cards I have?

zman said...

My first stint in Boston lasted from 1999 to 2003, the peak of Petey's powers. I saw him pitch live three times from three diffrent places in the ballpark. He was jaw droppingly good no matter the angle. I don't recall any other athlete capturing a city's attention like Pedro at that time, at least nowhere I've ever lived.

rob said...

i only got to see him live once - in fenway, while on my honeymoon, saw him strike out 12 orioles. here's the box score, because i know you care: http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1999/B09270BOS1999.htm

zman said...

Just returned from my first fishing soirée with zson. One sunfish caught, two hooks and many worms lost, and an enthusiastic angler created. Our Zebco Dock Demon was $15 well spent.

zman said...

Honeymoon at Fenway? Your wife really loves you, or she's a chiropractor.

rob said...

honeymoon was on cape cod/martha's vineyard, but we rolled into boston to see petey pitch.

mayhugh said...

Zman - if you want to up the ante on the next fishing trip, go as early or as late as you can while the sun is starting to rise or descend and throw a dark (black or blue) buzzbait on your line before you put anything else in the water. Crank it just quickly enough to keep it moving along the top, then watch the glee of your son when you get a largemouth jumping out of the water to get to it. And buzzbaits are cheap - I haven't bought one in years but I suspect you can still find them for 2-3 bucks.

Danimal said...

America!

Danimal said...

Aaaaannnnnd stuck in chicago. Good stuff.

Dave said...

i remember that trip to northern georgia when you crossed the line from boy to man . . . if only burt reynolds had shown up a little bit earlier with his cross-bow!

Mark said...

I hate fishing which is unfortunate since I live blocks from both a river and the Atlantic in an area with tons of great fishing spots.

rob said...

blew my daughter's mind this evening when she dropped tyler the creator's name and i knew who he was, and about odd future. thanks, mark and z!

zman said...

It's Tyler, the Creator. The comma is key and will really blow her mind. Frank Ocean though.

blogspot abal said...

This news very interesting sir, I like this article because a very informative, same like a Tips bersetubuh agar kuat dan tahan lama
Cara membuat obat diabetes dari lidah buaya
Agen ace maxs resmi di batam
Apakah makanan yang tidak boleh dikonsumsi oleh penderita gagal ginjal
Obat untuk kelenjar getah bening di ketiak