The Most Influential Man Himself

October 30, 2009 - 8:08 am

Pedro Martinez is like an elephant: he never forgets. All of his greatest achievements and every one of his subtlest mistakes from his illustrious career are etched in the back of his mind clearer than the morning sky. In the days leading up to last night's 3-1 Game 2 defeat to the Yankees, there is no question that Pedro distinctly remembered all of his triumphs and failures pitching at Yankee Stadium in the past. Although he was tagged with the loss, Pedro showed flashes of his glory days, striking out eight batters in six-plus innings of work allowing six hits and three earned runs.

Many say a pitcher naturally functions with a short-term memory, erasing any negativity lingering from a dismal outing. An ace is groomed to always look on the bright side, set his sights on the start ahead, and carry an optimistic outlook for the future. There is no dwelling on the past, no need to rekindle the discontent. Yet, Pedro is an exception to that generalization. When Martinez took the podium before Game 1 of the World Series in front of a crowded room of reporters and media personnel, Pedro did not hesitate to refresh everyone's memory of how the media battered and beleaguered his character, painting him as "the man New York loves to hate." He showed no reluctance addressing the infamous Don Zimmer incident, nor did he stutter in the least when he denoted himself "the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium." Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, and even Derek Jeter may have a degree of difficulty agreeing with that. But, hey, as Pedro says, "Go wake up the damn Bambino, maybe I'll drill him in the [behind].  Still, Pedro has certainly left a sizable portion of his legacy permantly embedded in the old Yankee Stadium. His name will forever be engraved in the century-long history of the revered franchise. His memory will be passed along from generation to generation of Yankee fans. And some of his most controversial moments involving the fans, the players, and the coaches of New York will never be forgotten (and maybe never forgiven). To the gratifying recollection of Boston fans, Pedro's one-hit, 17-strikeout brilliance on Sept. 10, 1999, against the rivaled Yankees remains one of his finest moments as a member of the Red Sox. Allowing only a solo home run to Chili Davis, Pedro shrugged off the long ball and went on to turn in one of the best starts of his career. That year, Pedro was honored with the second of his three Cy Young Awards, winning the AL Triple Crown in pitching and finishing second in the AL MVP voting. Pedro was at the top of his game. He was arguably the most dominant pitcher of the era and continued to be a menace to the Yankees causing fans to despise his ability to so effortlessly silence the most lethal offense in all of baseball. Then, in 2003, the tides began to shift. In the 2003 ALCS between the Red Sox and the Yankees, Pedro would be at the epicenter of brawls and the target of criticism. During Game 3, Pedro launched a fastball behind the head of Karim Garcia. From there, Pedro was Public Enemy No. 1. Among the shouts of dissatisfaction from the Yankee bench, Jorge Posada was one of the most vehement protesters, causing Pedro to single out the catcher by pointing to his temple with his right index finger. The Yankees interpreted this gesture as a foreshadowing of a future beaning, but Pedro meant that he would remember Posada's objections, not necessarily fire a 95-MPH heater at his helmet. Later in the game, Roger Clemens threw a ball high to Manny Ramirez, who overreacted to a ball that was over the plate and started approaching the mound accusing Clemens of intending to hit him. Benches cleared and the sight that would remain fixed in everyone's mind was the image of Pedro tossing the 72-year-old Zimmer to the field.

New York would have its revenge. Taking the mound for Game 7, Pedro entered the 8th inning only six outs from securing a trip to the World Series for the Red Sox. Everyone knows the story. On fumes, Pedro was unable to hold a 5-2 lead, sending the game into extra innings, which would eventually end on an Aaron Boone walk-off in the bottom of the eleventh off of Tim Wakefield. Manager Grady Little would lose his job and some wondered if Pedro lost his confidence.

The next year, Pedro finally let out his built-up frustration with the Yankees by calling them his "Daddy" late in the season after back-to-back disappointing outings. Since then, a tirade of banners, shirts, and teases have flooded the stands of Yankee Stadium ridiculing the pitcher that once owned their team for years. Last night, Pedro made his first appearance at the new Yankee Stadium. In the first six frames, the right-hander held the Yankees to two solo home runs courtesy of Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui before Charlie Manuel pulled a Grady Little and sent out Pedro one inning too long. Still, upon his departure, Pedro left in high spirits, warmly smiling as he made his way back to the visitor's dugout in the midst of a few "daddy" chants from the crowd at Yankee Stadium. He made sure to take in all the jeers and the cheers echoing throughout unwelcoming atmosphere. It was a start Pedro will never forget.