Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez did not become the greatest pitcher in Red Sox history by just producing a single moment of greatness.
He delivered greatness nearly every time he pitched in a Boston uniform.
The high-points of his career in Boston were, however, multiple and stellar.
He, however, had one game pitching for the Red Sox that epitomized what made Pedro Martinez Pedro Martinez.
Pedro was the unlikeliest of Red Sox heroes. He was born and raised in Manoguayabo, a suburb of the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo. He spoke of "waking up the damn Bambino so I can drill him in the ass." He wistfully gave us a look at his upbringing in the DR after losing to the Yankees in the 2004 regular-season. The "mango tree" is as much a part of his biography as Fenway Park. At just 5-feet-7, and 170 pounds soaking wet, Martinez routinely humbled the best hitters in baseball when the all those staggering offensive numbers were bulked up due to PEDs and steroids.
He began the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park by striking out five of the six batters he faced en route to the victory and game MVP honors.
Barry Larkin - Strikeout Swinging
Larry Walker - Strikeout Looking
Sammy Sosa - Strikeout Swinging
Mark McGwire - Strikeout Swinging.
Matt Williams - Reached First Base On An Error
Jeff Bagwell - Strike 'Em Out-Throw Em Out Double-Play.
Larkin is in the Hall of Fame. Walker remains on the HOF ballot and was clean, although he once said he may have been injected with "pancake batter." Sosa, Bagwell and McGwire have been denied entrance into Cooperstown because of either confessed or suspected steroid use. Williams, who didn't produce Hall of Fame numbers, was named in the Mitchell report and bought than $11,600 worth of steroids and HGH from a Florida clinic back in 2002.
None stood a chance against Martinez that night at Fenway. One was left wondering if Pedro faced Ted Williams, who graced the field at Fenway Park for the last time that evening, could have consistently reached base against Pedro had they faced off in their respective primes.
No doubt, Pedro would have drilled Teddy Ballgame in the ass, too.
No doubt, somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy, you'll find radio and TV transmissions featuring Boston's Top Baseball Experts and Insiders of that day lamenting that deal.
"We can't give up those prospects..."
Turns out, Duquette was right about Roger Clemens entering the twilight of his career, too. At least before Clemens met Brian McNamee.
Pedro delivered one of the all-time "grit and balls" moments in Boston sports history with his relief appearance against the Indians in the 1999 ALDS. He and the Yankees delivered literal and baseball blows upon each other during his days in the AL East, and in the 2009 World Series as a member of the Phillies.
Pedro's destruction of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series remains his most important, if not most-overlooked, moment on the Red Sox.
Winning that game snuffed out whatever non-existent hope the tepid Cardinals lineup had against Boston in that series. Remember, the Red Sox had won the first two games of the 1986 World Series. That didn't end so well.
The Red Sox needed to make sure the Cardinals were left without any hope after Game 3. Martinez scattered three hits over seven shutout innings, striking out six. Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke completed the inevitable.
It may have been the first World Series won in three games.
Still, there was one Pedro Moment that defined his career more than any other Pedro Moment.
It came on a brutally hot and humid night in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Aug. 29, 2000. At least outside. Inside Tropicana Field, a baseball stadium designed with the latest mid-1980s technology it was cool and dingy 69 degrees.
At that time, games between the Red Sox Tampa Bay Devil Rays were usually lopsided affairs in Boston's favor. The Rays/Devil Rays would not win more than 70 games in a season until 2008.
There were 17,450 fans in attendance that night. About 17,451 were members of Red Sox Nation or its various factions. This would be the night that all that bad blood between the Red Sox and Rays first flowed. The Original Fenway South would also trace its conception to this evening.
This was the night that Pedro Martinez threw a one-hitter after drilling Gerald Williams to start the game. There were two story-lines that night. One was Pedro's performance. He was all-but-unhittable, save for Williams rushing the mound after Pedro plunked him in the left hand with the game's fourth pitch. The Devil Rays had faced Pedro three times already that season without losing.
This night would not be the fourth. Boston won the game 8-0. Carl Everett could have hit for the cycle, but chose to hit two home runs, a double, and triple instead.
The pitch that hit Williams set off a crazy sequence of events - starting with the first brawl of the night. The brawling and ejections would be the other story line.
Eventually, eight Devil Rays would be tossed.
Williams was gone first for charging the mound, he was quickly followed by manager Larry Rothschild, who wanted Martinez ejected.
The retaliation began in earnest.
Finally, Greg Vaughn got an early exit after arguing a called third strike in the seventh.
During the first fight pile-up on the mound, Brian Daubach of the Red Sox was accused of throwing multiple cheap shots and "sucker puches."
The Devils Rays spent the rest of the night throwing at Daubach.
Here's the breakdown, according to the St. Pete Times:
Eiland hit him with a glancing blow in the third. Lidle, after allowing Daubach to ground out in the fourth, was ejected after throwing at Daubach in the seventh, and Fiore was ejected for hitting him two pitches later. "The whole thing was that we thought Daubach was throwing cheap shots in the pile and you're going to protect your players and you're not going to let that happen," Rothschild said. "The only problems was that our pitchers kept missing the guy. And that was a problem."
Williams was replaced by a pinch-runner in the first, who moved to second on a fielder's choice. Martinez then struck out the next two batters. The next member of the Devil Rays to reach first base was catcher John Flaherty, who broke up Martinez's no-hit bid with a lead-off single in the ninth.
For those keeping score at home, that was 24 straight batters retired after Pedro started the game by hitting Williams, likely on purpose.
Boston second baseman Lou Merloni suffered a concussion after he was kneed in the head during the fight. Merloni, now a mid-day host on WEEI 93.7 FM and an analyst with Comcast Sports New England, soon went to the hospital.
"I stayed in for my next at-bat," Merloni recalled Tuesday. "By the time everything settled down at the hospital, I asked [what was happening] and was told Pedey had a no-hitter going into the eight. I turned on the TV right before Flaherty got the hit."
Pedro fanned 13 Devil Rays that night, throwing strikes on 71 of his 110 pitches. He denied hitting Williams on purpose and remained "unrepentant," as the Times noted.
Of course he did. Martinez was never repentant about anything he did on the mound. Every pitch had a purpose. He was setting up the next pitch, trying to send a message, drill someone in the ass, or going for the next and needed out.
The Red Sox finished second in 2000, falling 2.5 games short of the Yankees. Pedro Martinez was never better, never nastier, and never more Pedro than he was that August night in St. Pete.
For those Red Sox partisans in attendance, like myself, it was a glorious night during an otherwise forgettable season. While the game was ultimately meaningless, it serves as template for all that defined Pedro Martinez.
All of Pedro's pitching skill was on display that night. He was at his best. He was never better, never tougher, never grittier, never nastier, never more filthy, never more fun to watch, and never more dominant.
Cooperstown is lucky to have him.
The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Bill has written and reported for ESPN, CBSSports.Com and was a sports/deputy sports editor at several metro daily newspapers. Reach Bill on the OBF Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
OBF email Address. Thanks always for reading.
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