Remembering The Flair Of #45: Boston Red Sox To Honor Pedro Martinez

Jul 28, 2015
Originally published on July 28, 2015 6:31 pm
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Number 45 was retired tonight at Fenway Park. That's the jersey number of Pedro Martinez. His brilliant pitching career with the Boston Red Sox can be summed up by other numbers - seven seasons, one World Series, two Cy Young awards and too much grit to count. Later, Martinez signed with the New York Mets and his brilliance slowly faded. But baseball fans still reminisce about Pedro's time in Boston, including WGBH's Kirk Carapezza.

KIRK CARAPEZZA, BYLINE: Thousands of fans turned out in Cooperstown to celebrate Pedro when he was just inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PEDRO MARTINEZ: Hola.

(CHEERING)

CARAPEZZA: In his speech, Pedro recognized his roots in the Dominican Republic, but he also turned his attention to Boston and its fans.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARTINEZ: Boston, I don't have enough words to say how much I love you.

(CHEERING)

CARAPEZZA: As a Red Sox fan, I know that Boston loved him back. My friends and I were in the stands for his first start at Fenway in 1998, and before his second game, we decided to track his strikeouts with big, homemade, red K signs, the symbol for strikeout.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: First pitch of the ballgame is a fastball in there for a call - strike.

CARAPEZZA: As Pedro racked up the strikeouts, we posted Ks at each of his games.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Swing and a miss, strike three, got him on a changeup.

CARAPEZZA: We were known as the K-Men and we occupied the last row of the centerfield bleachers. We posted the signs as high as we could, counting them off in Spanish with each strikeout.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Uno, dos, tres.

CARAPEZZA: At the time, we were scrappy teenagers from Boston's quiet suburbs, and Pedro's games sounded like this - a Dominican street festival.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in foreign language).

CARAPEZZA: Our group never missed one of Pedro's home starts. And from time to time, we took the show on the road - New York, Baltimore, Cleveland - hoping we'd witness history. All of New England was in the grips of this small but hard-throwing ace who had as much flair off the field as he had on it. Today, after three World Series championships in the span of 10 years, it's easy to forget that the late 1990s was still a tough time to be a Red Sox fan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Pedro winds and deals.

CARAPEZZA: But every fifth game, when number 45 pitched, he reminded us how beautiful baseball can be.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Swing and a miss - strike three. He swung at a high fastball out of the strike zone up and away. And Pedro Martinez, for the fourth time this year, Ks the side and this time he does it on nine pitches.

CARAPEZZA: And for fans who are suffering this abysmal Red Sox season, once again, Pedro has inspired the region and given us something to celebrate. For NPR News, I'm Kirk Carapezza in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.