Dan Schlossberg's Winter Log: New Dominican Dandy reaches Cooperstown • Latino Sports

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Dan Schlossberg’s Winter Log: New Dominican Dandy reaches Cooperstown

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NEW YORK — And then there were two.

Pedro Martinez will double the number of Dominicans in the Baseball Hall of Fame when he is inducted in July.

Pedro Martinez (above) and Juan Marichal are the only Domnicans in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Pedro Martinez (above) and Juan Marichal are the only Domnicans in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Until now, Juan Marichal, another righthanded pitching hero, was the sole representative of the island in Cooperstown.

“I never dreamed I was going to be a Hall of Famer,” Martinez told a packed media gathering Wednesday at the Waldorf Astoria. “I have a pretty good idea of what it represents to the Dominican Republic but I’ll have a much better idea when I get there and see how the people react.”

The five-time ERA king got 91 per cent of the vote, well above the 75 per cent needed for induction, but said he would have settled for the minimum. “Making it even with the lowest number would have been a great honor,” said Martinez, who pitched for the Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets before finishing his career with the Philadelphia Phillies. “I was supposed to break down so many times.”

Martinez earned three Cy Young Awards, winning the trophy in both leagues, en route to 216 career wins. “Today, he stands as tall as Randy Johnson,” said Jack O’Connell of the Baseball Writers Association of America of the 5’10” Martinez, who stands a foot shorter than the towering lefty, who also belongs to the Class of 2015.

Craig Biggio and Randy Johnson were elected to Cooperstown this week (Bob Nesoff photo).

Craig Biggio and Randy Johnson were elected to Cooperstown this week (Bob Nesoff photo).

Martinez, Johnson, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio were notified Tuesday of their selection by the voting writers, who had not voted in four candidates in 60 years. All three pitchers were first-ballot choices while Biggio, who played three positions while spending his entire career with the Houston Astros, finally made it on his third try (he missed by two votes last year).

The brother of former Dodgers pitcher Ramon Martinez, Pedro is about to become the first Hall of Fame inductee to make his last pitching appearance in Cooperstown — he started the Hall of Fame Game there last summer.

“I remember being in Cooperstown early in my career with the Expos,” he revealed. “I looked at the old gloves and couldn’t believe anybody could catch a hard-hit ball with them. I also went looking for Babe Ruth artifacts. I saw that bat with the big barrel and wondered how he could hit with it. I couldn’t imagine how the game was played then.

“Now I’m going back as an old goat. We all became old goats.”

Spending 20+ years in the majors can do that. Johnson, once a wild lefthander who had trouble harnessing his velocity and coping with his size, pitched for 22 years, one more than Smoltz, en route to 303 victories. Only four lefties, including 2014 inductee Tom Glavine, won more often.

Tom Glavine (left, with Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux) was inducted last year. George Napolitano picture

Tom Glavine (left, with Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux) was inducted last year.
(George Napolitano photo)

With a wink at Johnson, Martinez admitted, “I did not intimidate anybody. But my small body-frame allowed me to match myself against any other pitchers. I was able to learn such pinpoint control that every time I hit someone, it seemed like it was on purpose. I did brush back Biggio a few times.”

The former pitcher, who peaked while pitching for the Boston Red Sox, said he enjoyed coming to New York as both a visitor and later as a member of the Mets.

“It was a tough challenge pitching against the Yankees when they had Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, and Paul O’Neill,” he said. “That team was loaded. And they had good pitchers too in Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Randy. Roger had the best mechanics of any righthanded pitcher I ever saw.”

Martinez mentioned the media frenzy too. “They wanted to get to you with the rivalry thing, back and forth with the Yankees and Red Sox,” he said. “But I had no complaints about being a visitor with the Red Sox or playing for the Mets.”

According to Martinez, however, there was a difference between fans of the Mets and fans of the Yankees. “For Yankees fans, it’s win or nothing,” he said. “They would yell at me and say, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ But in Queens, the fans there are wild and happy. They settle for what they have.”

Collectively, the Class of 2015 had 33 All-Star appearances and nine Cy Young trophies, not to mention multiple strikeout crowns, ERA titles, and league leadership in such categories as winning percentage. Johnson and Smoltz even led their league in wild pitches (Smoltz once had three in one inning against the Mets).

Randy Johnson drew 97% of the vote

Randy Johnson drew 97% of the vote

Johnson led this year’s vote with more than 97 per cent. No player has ever been chosen unanimously.

Next year’s ballot has one lock (Ken Griffey, Jr.) and one probable (Trevor Hoffman), making it more likely that ex-Mets slugger Mike Piazza will surmount the 75 per cent barrier after missing by 28 votes this year, just under 70 per cent. No player with at least that percentage in any election has ever been denied in subsequent votes.

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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