That man crush you have on Pedro Martinez? Embrace it.
Part of growing up a sports fan is listening to your elders rave about “the good old days.” Everyone was the greatest this or the greatest that. And there never will be another so-and-so, except for maybe so-and-so, who can do such-and-such almost as well as so-and-so.
Yeah right, I thought.
You mean to tell me Larry Bird could pick your pocket, circle the basket, back you down and insult your mother all before rising up to drain a 25-foot 3-pointer? OK, I guess I’ll believe it.
So, this Bobby Orr guy “revolutionized the game?” He could skate end to end with the puck on a string, loop around the net and make the goaltender look more helpless than Wile E. Coyote? Oh, and he could beat the tar out of you? Jeez, dude sounds nuts. Sounds good to me.
Of course, I learned over time — with some help from YouTube — that these things, in fact, happened. Were they sugarcoated to some extent by the storyteller? Probably. More so with each passing Miller Lite.
But the overall point couldn’t be any more valid: Bird and Orr — the two most vivid examples for one 26-year-old from Quincy, Mass. — were pretty damn good and pretty damn unique. They were special, in so many ways, for an entire generation (or two) of Boston sports fans.
While I, for one, must rely on highlights and second-hand accounts — Orr stopped playing 20 years before my time and Bird’s career ended when I was 3 — I sure as hell respect their contributions. And moreover, I respect the googly-eyed look I receive every time their names are mentioned in the company of certain grown men.
Back in the day, somewhere between playing “Madden 96” on Sega Genesis and collecting Red Sox baseballs from Burger King, I’d find myself wondering, “Will I ever see something like that?”
Who will be my Bird or my Orr? Who will I “tell the kids about” after whetting the palate during some Sunday afternoon yardwork? About whom will I say, “There never will be another?”
It’s quite a conundrum for a young kid. Here I am trying to balance long division with building the next kick-ass amusement park in “RollerCoaster Tycoon,” and now I’m supposed to worry about this? Life’s tough for a 10-year-old in 1999. And that’s without factoring in the Y2K hysteria.
Then it happened.
A 160-pounder from the Dominican Republic ran roughshod through Major League Baseball.
He painted corners. He climbed the ladder. He pulled the string. He bruised bodies. He brushed you back. He knocked you down. He struck you out. He sat you down. He dominated.
Could this be the guy?
Pedro spent seven seasons in Boston from 1998 through 2003 and completely changed the landscape.
I counted the days on the newspaper schedule to see if the tickets I had for next Wednesday night happened to be for “a Pedro game.” Surely, if you’re in my age bracket, you did the same.
The term “event” has been used to describe the days on which Pedro pitched. That’s accurate, so long as we specify that we’re not talking about going to the opera. I had never been to Mardi Gras, but you could keep it. We had “Pedro Day” at least once, sometimes twice, a week.
“I represent many things, but Boston is one place that I’m representing proudly,” Martinez told reporters Saturday in Cooperstown, N.Y. on the eve of being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. “(The fans) can feel comfortable that Pedro is going to be Pedro on the introduction. And Boston, whatever Pedro is, Boston goes along with it.
“I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain this very much to the Bostonians, because they know what I’m made of and they know who I am. I’m a walking party in Boston. The parade just keeps going.”
I don’t want to put words in the mouths of others. But whatever. For us millennials who grew up in New England, Martinez’s induction into Cooperstown symbolized three things:
1. We’re not as young as we used to be.
2. Pedro was the greatest pitcher we’ve ever seen.
3. We found our guy.
There never will be another Larry Bird.
There never will be another Bobby Orr.
There never will be another Pedro Martinez.
These players mean different things to different people. But as far as sitting back and marveling at what we witnessed, all represent “the good old days” for certain (recent) generations of Boston sports fans.
In these parts, they are the men who can do no wrong.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@REMEZCLA