Pedro Martinez may have been the best pitcher ever to throw a pitch for the Boston Red Sox. For a franchise with so many years behind it and so many greats to have worn the uniform, that's saying something. With yesterday's news that Pedro (never "Martinez," always "Pedro") has returned to the Red Sox organization to take a job as a roving... er... a special uh... an assistant... a something. Doesn't matter. Pedro's back is the point and after the last two seasons there can hardly be better news. Just the fact that Pedro would associate himself with this organization again of (presumably) his own free will vaults the Red Sox upwards in my estimation.
This all got me thinking about a summer day back in 2000. I was living in Back Bay at the time. Don't be too jealous. Look around you. See that closet? It's bigger than my apartment which featured the combination entryway/kitchen/living room/dining room/bedroom. The bathroom was separate. Gotta love that. The prime benefit of the place, in fact the only benefit of the place, was its location. I was about a 15 minute walk or T ride to the Esplanade, Newbury Street, Harvard Square, the South End, and of course, Fenway Park. On that summer day in 2000 I spent that 15 minutes and found myself at the gates to Fenway. There I bought a ticket. That ticket put me 10 rows up behind third base for a baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and Red Sox. For the Indians, Bartolo Colon. Pre-300 pound variety. For the Red Sox, Pedro.
I sat enthralled, watching as Pedro dominated the Indians for eight innings, giving up one walk while striking out 10. The lone hit he allowed was a double by Russell Branyan. Shutting down any major league team is impressive, but this was the early 2000s Indians. Their lineup featured Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Roberto Alomar, Jim Thome, David Justice, the aforementioned Branyan, Richie Sexson, and of course Manny Ramirez, who oddly enough wasn't in that day's lineup. It probably wouldn't have mattered.
After hearing the Pedro news I went digging through the MLB.com archives to see if I could find video of that game. Sadly, I couldn't. But I did find something else that is more than worth your time. Here, friends, I present video of the time Pedro struck out 17 Yankees in Yankee Stadium.
The date is September 10, 1999. The internet is barely a thing. Y2K is looming. Some people think the end of the millennium is as well, though if you could count you knew it was a year away. The Red Sox were 6.5 games behind New York when Pedro took the mound against Andy Pettitte (appropriate cliche: the more things change the more they stay the same). Here's what happened.
I don't know if that embedded or not. If it didn't, no worries, just click here and all your troubles will vanish in a puff.
Like the game I attended, this happened to be against the second-highest scoring offense in baseball. No biggie. A noticeably short-haired Pedro cut down 17 Yankees including but not limited to:
- Chuck Knoblauch
Derek Jeter (twice)
- Paul O'Neill
- Bernie Williams (twice)
- Tino Martinez
- Joe Girardi (both times he came up)
- Darryl Strawberry (who pinch-hit for Girardi and K'd anyway)
- and, for fun, Rickey Ledee (all three times he came up)
Oh, and one more thing: he didn't walk anyone. 17 strikeouts, no walks. Pedro.
There are more great Pedro moments than I can come up with, or, clearly, than MLB can store videos of. The man was a force of nature. Go back and watch the video again. Notice the 97 reading on the radar gun when he strikes out Jeter in the first inning for his first K. Notice the the brutal change-up that freezes Bernie Williams two batters later, so much so that Williams gets upset at the umpire, as if what he just saw must have been some sort of mistake. Nope, Bernie. Definitely strike three. Notice the high fastball that he gets Knoblauch to flail hopelessly at to end the game. The broadcast doesn't give a radar reading for that but safe to assume that his 120th pitch on the night was a mid-90s fastball nobody was catching up to.
Finally notice the reaction of the fans in Yankee Stadium. The crescendo reached by the Stadium crowd -- the opposing crowd -- is audible and impressive as Pedro rears back for what would be his (and Knoblauch's) final pitch. At his best Pedro transcended the pettiness of team, bringing everyone together, making us baseball fans above all else.
There have been few pitchers who could match up with Pedro when he was on his game, and I count myself lucky to have been there on that summer evening in 2000 when Pedro made mincemeat out of the second best hitting team in baseball.
The actual on-field impact Pedro might have in his new role with the organization will be impossible to judge. Maybe it will be substantial, maybe minimal. On this grey, rainy Friday in the middle of the off-season, I know this much: the more Pedro the better.