BOSTON — Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens shared a warm embrace Thursday at Fenway Park. The legendary pitchers entered the Red Sox Hall of Fame side by side after years of going toe-to-toe.
Martinez and Clemens each carved out an impressive career in Boston, hence the honor of being inducted into the franchise’s illustrious Hall of Fame. There was a time, however, when the two hurlers comprised one of the fiercest pitching rivalries in Major League Baseball history.
It was a rivalry driven by both pitchers’ desire to be the best.
“What was cool was (my sons) just saw Pedro, and to hear their account of the stories or to hear their comments was really cool,” Clemens said Thursday. “They said, ‘Dad, when you always matched up against No. 1’s, especially Pedro, the electricity in the air was like a prize fight.’
“You don’t really think that as a pitcher when you’re going in,” Clemens added. “ … I kind of look at a guy’s starts a couple of times before, and if he’s on, I know that my mistakes have to be few. I can’t go out and give up a three-run homer early and hope that my guys battle back. Anytime you’re facing a (team’s) No. 1 or No. 2 (starter) or someone that’s in their really good mindset, you have to be sharp, too, or it’s going to be a long night for you, for sure.”
Martinez and Clemens never shared a clubhouse in Boston. Clemens spent 13 years with the Red Sox but left after the 1996 season when the club wanted to go in a different direction. Martinez arrived before the 1998 campaign, kickstarting a seven-year tenure in which he enjoyed considerable success. Their paths were very much intertwined, though, as Martinez (pitching for the Red Sox) and Clemens (pitching for the Yankees) were key combatants in a Boston-New York rivalry that reached new heights during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“The pressure of pitching in the East, I tell kids. All of the other teams are great and it’s one thing performing for them,” Clemens said. “But try and come play baseball in the East a little bit. You have to come every day ready to play. The people expect that, the fans expect it and I enjoy that aspect of it. You really can’t have a night off.”
Clemens, who turned 37 in his first year with the Yankees in 1999, spent five seasons with New York before joining the Houston Astros in 2004. Martinez solidified himself as one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history during that stretch, which was incredible considering the offensive competition he faced in addition to consistently going up against other teams’ best starters.
“A lot of people ask me about the Steroid Era, and I always say that I wouldn’t want it any other way, because every time I took the mound, I took pride on it. It was my day to do art,” Martinez said Thursday. “I enjoyed every single aspect on top of the mound and in the game. Every day I got a chance to be out there, to me, was a chance to display my art, how I did it. I took pride.
“I enjoyed every time I was able to frame pretty much like Picasso — two inches off the corner to get a guy to strike out in a tough situation, frame a changeup from the hip to the black away was just great, throw a fastball by someone powerful was also something I always took pride in it. It was my day to display my art, so I enjoyed it 100 percent.”
Clemens on Thursday recounted a conversation he and Martinez had following a recent celebration at Fenway Park. The two apparently discussed Pedro’s changeup, The Rocket’s split and the difference between “power throwers” and “power pitchers.” It was an eye-opening experience for Clemens that really hammered home the uniqueness of their respective careers.
Martinez and Clemens, once competitors vying for American League East supremacy, officially attained Red Sox immortality Thursday. Fittingly, they did so as brothers in arms.
Photo via Twitter/@MartinKessler91
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