Pedro shares a smile before the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway. (Boston Globe)
In a previous life I ran a popular Red Sox blog – the last time I wrote about the Sawx was three and a half years ago through a haze of tears as a great chapter in my life closed. Since that last sentence I’ve been able to focus on other outlets such as Visions of the Unexcused, DJ-ing, painting, and now most importantly, being a Dad. I’m content with my decision to retire the blog, and only occasionally get the itch to write about the Sox, and today that itch simply can’t be ignored, because the greatest Red Sox of my generation (no offense David Ortiz), and possibly ever, is being inducted into the the Hall of Fame.
A gorgeous sight.
The narrative of what it meant to be a Red Sox fan pre-2003 has been lost due to the previously unfathomable success of the Sox over the past decade. But pre-Pedro was a dark time for Red Sox fans. The Yankees were in the throes of a modern dynasty and the Red Sox were stuck in their birth-rite purgatory state of being good enough to make hope hurt. The decade before Pedro arrived the Sox averaged 80 wins per Season. The seven seasons Pedro was with Boston the Sox averaged 91, and that’s just the tip of the statistical iceberg of how much Martínez affected the Red Sox on the field, but to us Sox fans, it was his swagger on and off the field that makes him endearing. He turned our hope from its continuous pessimistic hue into a brilliantly saturated optimistic tone of possibility, not inevitability.
The keystone moment for what the Red Sox have become.
1999. This is the keystone year for the marketing money making behemoth “Red Sox Nation” has since become – and the Red Sox brass have Pedro Martínez (and Dan Duquette) to thank for such a solid foundation. Watching Pedro during this season, the apex of the steroid era, was the most electrifying baseball I’ve ever watched. If you had to go to the bathroom during a Pedro game you did so when the Red Sox were batting, for missing a pitch would be sacrilege. Having Pedro showcase this once in a lifetime electricity at the 1999 All-Star Game, the last to be in Fenway, as the baseball world said goodbye to Ted Williams, couldn’t have been more fitting. This was the passing of the torch.
Ted Williams and Pedro Martínez are the #1 and #2 greatest Red Sox ever. Both were inhuman in their ability to play baseball, and they both had unnerving confidence in their craft. This was shown to the World for the first time by Pedro in the best two innings in All-Star history, and then later in the 1999 ALDS, a moment that gets a little buried in a career with a plethora of amazing moments. Pedro replaced Derek Lowe in just the forth inning – this after leaving Game 1 with a back injury. The injured Pedro went on to pitch potentially the game of his life, striking out 8 over six stupendous innings of no hit ball to help the Red Sox win their first playoff Series since 1986.
It would take another five years for Pedro to help the Red Sox to the top of the baseball world, but this was the moment that made the possible real. Everything in-between that All-Star game in 1999 and Pedro holding that trophy in 2004 was magical. You never missed a pitch – his jovialness and defiance helped create the culture that made the Red Sox “The Red Sox” – which gave fans pride instead of contempt. I’ll talk of Pedro to my little boy Dylan like my Pops talked of Ted to me, another passing of a torch, and like Ted, Pedro’s light will forever shine bright on the institution he helped create – Red Sox Nation.
From Cambridge to the Dominican, thanks Pedro, congratulations on your Hall of Fame induction.