Fenway Park in the late 90s and early 2000s was a very special place to be a part of.
Remember that when Pedro’s number is retired tonight.
Every writer in New England is about to (rightfully) bombard you with a love letter to Pedro in some form or another, and I encourage you to consume each and every one of them.
However, while reading please remember this:
There isn’t a writer alive who can do Pedro justice.
You were either a part of it or you weren’t, and no explanation—no mix of words or music or memories—can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world.
Luckily, it doesn’t matter if you were a part of it or not because what Pedro Martinez did on the field transcends baseball.
Pedro taught us more about life than anything else.
How can a person appreciate something as it’s happening when they don’t know it’s happening?
That’s a question I ask a lot.
As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes it’s impossible to appreciate things as they unfold because we have no context in which to place them.
That was never the case with Pedro.
It was impossible not to know what was happening.
There are some things I can’t have a rational discussion about. Better band: Zeppelin or the Stones? Better show: The Simpsons or Family Guy? More sexually attractive: Ronda Rousey or Any Other Woman Ever In The History Of The Universe?
Pedro Martinez is at the top of that list.
He was, is, and will always be the Greatest of All Time.
I’ll spare you the intimate details of our relationship—just know it was love at first sight.
Like any great couple, Pedro and I have an awesome “How We Met” story:
July 8, 1997.
I’m 11 years old and watching the All Star Game alone in my basement on the only television in my house.
It’s the bottom of the 6th and this sewer rat-looking motherfucker enters the game representing the Montreal Expos:
You should have seen this dummy out there.
The guy was a fucking assassin.
He kept covering his face with his stupid blue glove as he waited for signs, leaving only his lifeless eyes visible to the batter.
He struck out A-Rod, lined out Griffey, and struck out Big Mac.
I swear to it on my very soul that I said aloud to myself, “We have to get this guy.”
Four months later we did.
And then seven years later he left.
If you’ve never had the pleasure, allow me to explain how most breakups work:
One person looks back at the good times, the other looks back at the bad times, and the truth sits somewhere in the middle.
This is the truth when it comes to Pedro and Boston:
Pedro Martinez left Boston to pitch in New York for more money.
It was an impulsive, misguided, indefensible decision for which both sides are to blame.
The Sox are to blame for not extending him before he got to free agency, but it was Pedro who, in the words of BSG, “leveraged the good will of the championship season into a far-too-generous offer from the Red Sox, then leveraged that offer into a suicidal contract from the Mets.”
That was a thing that happened.
Pedro might be the GOAT, but he also was, is, and will always be the biggest diva of all time, and there’s no better example of that than his leaving Boston.
This city, that player—we were made for each other.
But for as awe-inspiring as he was on the field, Pedro was just as maddening off it.
The guy just couldn’t help himself. There was always a problem. Always.
Pedro Martinez was a moody bitch whose behavior ranged from indirect arrogance to unprovoked petulance.
He created drama where there was none.
He searched for slights in the most innocuous of statements.
He knew how good he was and he acted accordingly.
And sure, you can make excuses for him.
The dude was 5-foot-10 and 146 pounds when he entered the majors.
Not bad numbers if you want to sashay down a runway in Milan during some heroin chic fashion show, but certainly not the measurables of a 200-inning dirt mule.
Pedro had nothing handed, took nothing for granted. The man was his own man.
That’s what we loved about him.
Nevertheless, there were times when we simply couldn’t make excuses.
There’s no need to rehash his every transgression, but “Why the fuck would he do that?” and “Why the fuck would he say that?” were common questions when assessing Pedro’s behavior.
However, that was Pedro’s greatest gift of all.
A conveniently overlooked fact of life is this: Most couples simply pair off and live satisfactory lives from inside a functional relationship. They aren’t interested in challenging each other, they don’t make each other better, and they will never live up to their potential as individuals.
Think about it.
Anyone can cheer for someone like Tom Brady.
Where’s the challenge in that?
But to cheer for Pedro?
Well, let’s just say you had to be prepared to put the work in.
You had to be prepared to tell your friends, “He’s not always like this. You should see him when it’s just the two of us. He’s really sweet.”
And there’s your rub, people:
Nothing came easy for Pedro Martinez, and as a result nothing came easy for Pedro Martinez fans.
I loved before and I’ll love again, but I’ll never love an athlete more than I loved Pedro.
He pushed me to be better fan. He pushed me to be better person.
And if his Hall of Fame speech taught us anything, it’s that a man really can learn from his mistakes.
There was no animosity, no mention of retribution.
He spoke like a warrior poet.
He spoke like a Bostonian.
Boston and Pedro back together, forever, us and him, everyday.
He didn’t make it easy, but there was always the implicit promise that it’d be worth it.
And it was.
It was so fucking worth it.
(Requisite Pedro anecdote for all you kids out there. Best if read in the voice of Wayne Henshaw for full effect:)
September 19, 2004.
Sox vs. Yanks.
It’s a Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. The AL East crown is still up for grabs.
It’s a HUGE. FRIGGIN’. GAME.
My college roommate, Michael Riordan Daly—one of the true loves of my life and to this day the only Yankee fan from Massachusetts I respect as both a person and baseball fan—had season tickets in Yankee Stadium’s Section 39.
Section 39. The section that does roll call. The infamous Bleacher Creatures.
That Saturday he tells me we’re going to the game.
So how do I prepare?
By not going to bed, of course.
I don’t go to bed because it’s a Saturday night and I’m a sophomore in college and there’s no fucking way I’m burning a Saturday night popping popcorn and watching movies and going to bed early like some asshole.
Not even for Pedro.
I’ve got beers to drink and skirts to chase, brah.
When we leave Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m. I’m a fucking disaster.
Not hung over at all. Still really very nice and drunk.
As a result, I spend the three-hour drive to the Bronx passed out in the back of Michael’s Jeep Wrangler.
Have you ever slept in the back of a Jeep Wrangler?
We get to the game and I wake up and it hits me like a slug to the chest. I am strung the fuck out.
But it’s all good.
After all, Pedro is pitching. The Sox are about to make it do what it do.
I’ve got this. I can rally.
So what ends up happening?
Pedro gets fucking SHELLACKED, of course.
My mainest man gives up 8 runs en route to a 11-1 Yankee victory.
As if that weren’t enough, back then the Bleacher Creatures would pick a fan of the opposing team during the YMCA between the 6th and 7th innings and chant “Why are you gay?” at him.
There’s a whole song that goes along with it sung to the tune of YMCA.
“Why are you gay? I saw you sucking some D-I-C-K!”
I’ll let you guess who they picked.
So yeah, have you ever had hundreds of people chant “Why are you gay?” at you?
Well, I’ve got to tell you: That’s some bucket list shit right there.
A little over a month later the Sox won their first World Series in 86 years after the greatest comeback in sports history.
And you know what?
Days like that made it worth it.
Days like that made it so fucking worth it.