By: Bob Elliott
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. _ Pedro Martinez dusted a few batters during his 18-year career.
He hit batters 141 times he hit opposing hitters and once pushed New York Yankees coach Don Zimmer to the ground as benches cleared during the 2003 American League Championship Series.
Once after a game against the Yankees in 2001 he said “wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill Babe Ruth.”
So, what kind of a high, hard one would Martinez, the second player from the Dominican Republic elected to the Hall of Fame, unleash under the chin of ESPN’s Colin Cowherd?
Cowherd blathered this week baseball couldn’t be “too complex” since so many Dominicans played.
ESPN has cancelled his show, although he was leaving next week to start a new gig with FOX Sports.
“It’s only going to be an insult to anyone that goes to that level,” Martinez told reporters. “I’m not at that level. I’m sorry. I’m dealing here with educated people, I’m dealing here with enlightened people, who understand human rights, understand who we are, these are the people I’m paying attention to.
“That person, I don’t even know, never heard of him, I don’t want to know him. I want to know the people that represent something, that mean something to us, the people who understand how we can get better.”
Never mind Sunday’s afternoon’s speech or his career numbers.
Martinez handled the matter with Hall of Fame dignity and class.
How would you handle it if someone knocked ripped your country?
“Yes, we are a third-world country,” Martinez said. “Yes, we don’t have the resources to be more educated. But you know what, every once in a while, you’re going to get one like me, who’s not afraid to face you guys and tell you, how educated or uneducated I am, how proud I am of becoming who I am.
“We’re not going to stop, go back to the third world country we were 30 years ago. We want to go forward. We don’t want to look down. I want to look up to you guys, the voters, the Hall of Famers that are here and hopefully set the bar high, like Roberto Clemente did.”
There is always anticipation leading up to an inductee’s speech. Will John Smoltz pull off his planned zinger at rotation mates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, who were inducted a year ago? The three of them were in the same rotation for 10 years.
Will Craig Biggio, the Houston Astros lifer, say “Don’t Mess with Texas?” Or look at Smoltz, mention Glavine and Maddux and say “no wonder why the Astros never beat the Braves?”
Will Seattle Mariners fans in the expected crowd of 50,000 boo Randy Johnson since his plaque shows an Arizona Diamondbacks logo?
Martinez’s speech, as he joins Juan Marichal the Dominican Dandy in the Hall, will be respectful, almost statesmanlike if Satuday was a precursor.
How Cowherd got into his anti-Dominican ramble was discussing the Miami Marlins firing their manager Mike Redmond and replacing him with general manager, Dan Jennings, Cowherd said “It’s baseball. You don’t think a GM can manage?
Like it’s impossible? The game is too complex?
“Really? A third of the sport is from the Dominican Republic. The Dominican has not been known in my lifetime as having world-class academic abilities. A lot of those kids come from rough backgrounds and have not had opportunities academically other kids from other countries have.”
Martinez said he wants to be remembered for being more than a ball player.
“I want to be a sign of hope for society,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where – the United States, Africa, Latin America. Everywhere.”
And Sunday night Martinez will see his plaque. He’s already seen Babe Ruth’s statue.
“We’re on the same team now,” Martinez now, “Babe can hit one and I’ll pitch eight scoreless.”
Spoken like a Hall of Famer.
Backing Montreal: Martinez was elected to the Hall of Fame in January.
An appointment to the city of Montreal Board of Trade is expected any day.
“Montreal was robbed of the chance to have a great team that could have marked history,” Martinez told reporters Saturday. “It’s great that they are discussing having a team there again.”
A three-time Cy Young award winner, Martinez went 55-33 with a 3.06 in four seasons with the Expos, including 1994 when Montreal was six games up on the Atlanta Braves when the season ended because of the strike.
“Montreal would love to have baseball back,” Martinez said, “it’s very safe, it is the safest city I’ve ever played and when I am in Boston I feel like I’m in my own back yard.”
Montreal is where he Martinez his place as a starter after pitching in relief two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He won the 1997 Cy Young award going 17-8 with a 1.90 ERA in 31 starts.
“As soon as possible, we need to get a club back,” said Martinez, who described the city as a “fantastic city with fantastic people.
“I feel a lot of pride having played there — as much as in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.” he said. “All my supporters are welcome; all my friends from Montreal are welcome.
“All these cities are part of a great baseball tradition,” Martinez said. “I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to represent baseball in so many different places.”