The buildup was good. The show itself was amazing.
Craig Biggio, John Smoltz and Randy Johnson one-by-one stepped to the podium Sunday to deliver speeches at the 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y. All three speeches were nice, but each was an opening act for the main attraction: Pedro Martinez’s speech.
Martinez tends to be a crowd-pleaser, so there already was a distinct buzz surrounding this year’s festivities. A large contingent of Boston Red Sox fans and Dominican Republic natives added to the atmosphere, leaving little doubt who was headlining the celebration.
Finally, after anticipation reached a fever pitch — fans chanted, “Pedro! Pedro! Pedro!” shortly after The Big Unit wrapped up his speech — and Martinez waltzed to the podium while fist-pumping with an ear-to-ear smile, it was time for the greatest pitcher in recent history to perform. He didn’t disappoint.
“Hola!” Martinez shouted twice, much to the crowd’s delight.
It set the tempo for a rousing speech that provided all the feels.
Let’s go over some highlights.
— The Martinez portion of the afternoon began with a video in which former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek described what it was like to work with the eight-time All-Star.
— It’s pretty cool that Martinez and Johnson were enshrined the same year. It ensured two of this generation’s best hurlers went in simultaneously, and it opened the door for more Pedro humor.
— Martinez thanked the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which voted him into the Hall of Fame. He received 91.1 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
“In ’99, I had a little stretch where I felt you guys didn’t like me so well,” Martinez said. “But hey, you made it up and you really showed me that you really care when it matters.”
— Martinez told an interesting story about not winning the American League Cy Young award in 2002.
According to Martinez, he missed a start that September because he opted to give it to rookie Josh Hancock. There apparently was a method to his madness.
“Why do I bring it up? Because out of four brothers that we are, Ramon, Nelson, me, and eventually Jesus, three of us made it to the big leagues,” Martinez said. “But Jesus is not in the record books because the organization he was playing for did not find the chance to give him one pitch in the big leagues so that he could be in the records. That was the main reason why I decided not to take that outing, but to give it to Josh Hancock.
“I felt bad that my brother Jesus did not experience what it was like to pitch in that game that day. So, Jesus, don’t feel bad. We pitched enough for you. We’re here. So love you. Baseball is yours, too. What we get is ours.”
Hancock died in a car accident April 29, 2007, while with the St. Louis Cardinals.
— Martinez said Saturday he wants to be remembered as a “sign of hope” for those looking to better their lives. He echoed similar sentiments Sunday, placing an emphasis on those less fortunate.
“I would like all of you to not look at me as numbers, as baseball achievements,” Martinez said. “I would like you to actually see me as a sign of hope for a third-world country, for Latin America — someone that you can really look up to, and feel comfortable enough to say, ‘I’m proud of you.’ ”
— Martinez wanted to honor his native Dominican Republic and the United States. He spoke in both Spanish and English during his speech, and he wore a blue suit featuring patches for both countries.
“The day I was called to be inducted into the Hall of Fame was Kids’ Day (in the Dominican Republic),” Martinez said. “And then the day I’m being inducted is Father’s Day in Dominican. So to all the fathers in the Dominican Republic, feel like this is your gift today.”
— Martinez’s brother Ramon was a huge influence in his career. Thus, he expressed gratitude.
“My dad is not here, but I have a second dad,” Martinez said. “Ramon, you right there. You’re my second dad.
“My brother Ramon. I follow his footsteps and it led me where I didn’t expect to be today. Thank you for being my support and leading the way I was going to walk.”
— Dan Duquette twice traded for Martinez — once while general manager of the Montreal Expos and once while GM of the Red Sox. That definitely isn’t lost on the new Hall of Famer.
“He was crazy to trade twice for the same little player, and both times he ended up looking great,” Martinez said smiling. “And he wanted me for a third time, but I was too old.
“So, Dan, thank you so much for having so much faith in me, trusting that I was going to make you look good. I thought you were good-looking without me, but I guess I shape you more.”
— Martinez thanked his old teammates, including Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Kevin Millar and Varitek. He shouted over to Millar — now an analyst for MLB Network — a couple of times.
— Martinez thanked each of the cities for which he played, including the place he called home for seven seasons from 1998 through 2004.
“Boston, I don’t have enough words to say how much I love you,” Martinez said.
— Martinez ended his speech by calling over Juan Marichal, the only other Dominican-born player in the Baseball of Hall of Fame. Marichal was inducted in 1983.
“I would like to do something that probably will break the protocol, but I’d like to give my people an opportunity that we don’t get very often and we have had to wait 32 years for us to do,” Martinez said.
“So I would like to invite Mr. Juan Marichal to come forward and finally give the Dominican Republic a gift that they waited 32 years to get. So congratulations. Thank you so much.”
Thumbnail photo via Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports Images
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