Pedro Martinez On 2004 Red Sox: 'We Were A Laughing Group'
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
When Pedro Martinez, the great Red Sox pitcher, got a big contract and then had a bad outing in Fenway Park, Boston fans booed him. He says one fan stood up and shouted - in somewhat courser language than I'll use right now - is this the kind of stuff we're getting for $75 million?
Well, in his new book, "Pedro," Martinez writes, (reading) that from that day forward, I would never tip my hat at Fenway. The respect had not been there, so there could not be mutual respect.
Pedro Martinez, a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest pitchers of recent decades, joins us from New York.
It's good to talk with you once again.
PEDRO MARTINEZ: Well, thank you very much for having me. It's a great honor.
SIEGEL: Well, that story - like some others in the book - about the Dodgers who traded you, or one of your pitching coaches, these stories seem to say that if you get on Pedro Martinez's bad side, you stay there and you can stay there for a very long time. Is that true?
MARTINEZ: Not really. But I can tell you, I will remember. I will remember when was that time that you denied me something, when was that time that you second-guessed me? When was that time that you did whatever you did to me? And it's not like I hold a grudge or anything like that, but I will remember.
SIEGEL: You will remember it (laughter). In the book, it's quite evident that you will remember it.
MARTINEZ: And I'll let you know that I know it.
SIEGEL: At several points in the book you remark on players who took steroids. And you pitched during the steroid era. Do you think that had there been no steroid era, your numbers would have been even better than they were? You strongly implied that Roger Clemens' numbers probably would've been worse if there'd been no steroids era.
MARTINEZ: If you ask me if I want it the same way again in my next life, I will tell you yes because I wanted to face the most difficult challenge that there was in order for me to prove who I was. And I wanted to beat the best guys out there. You know, I was able to do that and I'm extremely proud. It was a difficult era for pitching, but I'm glad I did it. And I guarantee you, if Roger was to probably do it the clean way and probably did not have all those things happen even though he had a lot of success after that, he would've been in the Hall of Fame without a doubt in the first ballot, just like me.
SIEGEL: You think that he found the fountain of youth, chemically there, with steroids?
MARTINEZ: I have no idea what he found because I've never been there. But I'll tell you one thing though, I enjoyed every single little bit of it. And as much as I competed against him, he would've never guessed that I was a huge fan of him and that I imitated him, that I copied his mechanics in some ways to actually become better, that he made me better every time I saw him pitch. To me, Roger should be in the Hall of Fame regardless because I thought he was a Hall of Famer way before that. But at the same time, you have to be accountable for the things that you didn't do the proper way. And it's too bad it happened to him.
SIEGEL: Now I want you to clarify something that may have mystified some baseball fans for years. After a loss to the Yankees you famously told reporters, the Yankees are my daddy. And this was seized upon as evidence that you were some kind of goofy guy or something. So tell us, what did you mean when you said, the Yankees are my daddy?
MARTINEZ: I didn't really say it that way. I said it - but you know that the media feeds off of negativity. They need quotes in order for them to write what they have to write. And what they got from the quote was I might as well go ahead and call the Yankees my daddy. That was the quote, but at the time what I meant was - in the Dominican Republic, we have a say that whenever you have a guy that has your number, you call him your daddy. And that's what I said. I might as well just call the Yankees my daddy.
SIEGEL: He owns you, that guy's got your number.
MARTINEZ: That's - he owns you. And that's what I meant at that time. But in no way did I mean that I couldn't beat the Yankees or that they were going to have success against me like I probably expressed it.
SIEGEL: You have a chapter in the book called "Senor Plunk..."
SIEGEL: ...Meaning Senor-throw-at-the-batter is what we're talking about. When you went out to the mound, you knew that you were going to throw at a batter, not hard, not to hurt him, but in the way - what pitchers do. And you set-up the umpire. In your warm-up throws, you purposely threw the ball over your catcher's head and all the way to the - back to the backstop. I mean, what you were doing is...
MARTINEZ: To confuse the umpire and seduce him into thinking that I was wild.
SIEGEL: Yeah. Yeah. So then when you come in on the batter, the umpire actually tells him, no, he's wild today, I saw him in his warm-up pitches.
MARTINEZ: (Laughter). Yeah, that was the main reason I did that. But that was already pre-planned because the person I threw the pitch to was being disrespectful to the organization, it was disrespectful to the pitchers. And we decided that we were going to go after him, and I was the perfect guy. I threw 97 and I wasn't afraid. So I set my stage for whenever he came up, you know, it wouldn't be anything weird to the umpire, the fact that I airmail one or two pitches. But I was quick - quick to hit anybody that hit one of my batters or was disrespectful to the team or to me in particular.
SIEGEL: Were you friends with your teammates?
MARTINEZ: Well, I have never been in another team where the chemistry was as good as that one. And the way we hanged out together, the way we went about everything. You know, we help each other so much. We complemented each other. We were together in everything. Every dinner - forget about the people outside, forget about the groupies and everybody chasing us, we were all together. The whole team - pitchers, position players, catchers, everybody. And Francona, I think, did a great job at keeping us together 'cause Francona would give us our space. And he was a player's manager. I liked Tito a lot.
SIEGEL: Because the Red Sox had had a reputation as a team of, you know, 35 players or whatever would arrive at the ballpark separately - or 25 - and then leave separately at the end of the game. And for years, it was always said of the Red Sox they didn't have a sense of cohesion. That wasn't the case in the championships...
MARTINEZ: No, no. This is probably the most unique group of guys I've ever played with and the most fun I've ever had in a team with a group of guys. And Manny was right on top of it. Kevin Millar, David, Pokey Reese - all those guys, so funny. I mean, it was unbelievable. We were a laughing group. We lead the league in hugs, hand-shakes and bad hair.
MARTINEZ: We were really looking like idiots, but we could play.
SIEGEL: Pedro Martinez, thank you very much for talking with us once again.
MARTINEZ: Always a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
SIEGEL: Pedro Martinez and Michael Silverman have written the book, "Pedro," which tells the story of Pedro Martinez's career in baseball and his life.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.