By Bob Elliott
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. _ The baseball world gathered in Phoenix Nov. 18, 1997 for the expansion draft to fill the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks rosters.
Yet, the player who switched teams that day with the most impact was Pedro Martinez, dealt from the Montreal Expos to the Boston Red Sox to provide a needed heart transplant.
“We had the deal worked out before, but it took a while for us to convince Red Sox ownership to pay him,” said Duquette Sunday before induction speeches began before 48,000 the fourth largest crowd assembled.
Duquette was the Red Sox general manager then, is now GM of the Baltimore Orioles and if Rogers Communications had its way would have been president of Your Toronto Blue Jays this year.
Expos GM Jim Beattie had to move Martinez as he could not afford him, so Martinez was dealt for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas.
“I think Claude Brochu helped with the deal some, the New York Yankees were interested as well,” said Duquette, who gave Martinez a six-year, $75 million US deal with a club option for 2004 bringing the total value to $90 million.
Martinez thanked Duquette in his Hall of Fame speech before many blue, white and red flags from the Dominican Republic.
“Dan Duquette ... I think he’s crazy,” said Martinez, “crazy enough to trade for me twice and he wanted me a third time but I was too old.
“I thought you were good looking without me, but I guess I helped you more.”
As GM of the Expos in 1993, Duquette sent second baseman Delino DeShields to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Martinez, a frail reliever at the time.
Martinez said he hoped “Montreal gets a team pretty soon,” and thanked Montreal’s Mark Routtenberg and the fan base in Montreal for its support adding “it’s too bad you don’t have a team.”
Martinez won the Cy Young award with the 1997 Expos, again in 1999 and 2000 at Fenway. He helped end the Curse of Bambino in 2004 ending Boston’s World Series drought.
Martinez wore a blue sports coat with a patch of Dominican coat of arms on his right arm, the USA coat of arms on his left. As Jane Forbes Clark was preparing to introduce Martinez he danced and bounced like a prize fighter about to be introduced.
“Hola!” said Martinez to cheers.
“Hola!” he repeated to more cheers.
Martinez thanked voting members of the Baseball Writers of America as the other three inductees did saying “In 1999, I had a stretch where I felt you guys didn’t like me.”
He praised fellow inductees and called Randy Johnson “the big unit. My brother from another mother.”
“Words have the power to build you or break you, I chose two words to describe how I feel today ‘God’ and ‘thank you,’” Martinez said. “The reason why Pedro was so determined out there. I have here the glory of God with me, and I have all the motivation I needed: my family. My kids.”
His father was not at the induction but his “second dad,” brother Ramon, who also pitched for the Dodgers, was. Martinez thanked Rafael Avila, the scout who signed more than 50 players, former manager Felipe Alou, who gave him the opportunity to start with the Expos and coach Tommy Harper.
“There was a time I wasn’t performing (Tommy) gave me the best advice I could ever take,” Martinez said. Harper told him: “that’s only a little slump. How do you get into the slump? Pitching. That’s the way you have to come out of it.”
Martinez told fans not to not look at his numbers or achievements.
“I would like you to actually see me as a sign of hope for a third-world country, for Latin America, someone that you can look up to, and feel comfortable enough to say, I’m proud of you,” Martinez said. “I want to be a sign of hope for a future generation.”
And then Martinez called up Juan Marichal, the only other Dominican in Cooperstown, to pose with their country’s flag.
“When I received the call that I was elected on Jan. 6, it was Three King’s Day in the Dominican,” said Martinez “and today is Father’s Day in my country.
“To all the fathers in the Dominican, this is your gift.”