Pedro: Yankee Stadium’s most influential player?
Pedro Martinez held an epic press conference here in advance of his Game 2 start in which he said, among numerous other things, that he may have been the most influential player to set foot in the old Yankee Stadium. He took on the New York media for abusing his name over the years when he was with the Red Sox, and looked back on Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.
Say what you want to about Pedro, but he remains one of the most entertaining and brightest players I’ve ever had the opportunity to cover. That mango tree quote still remains an all-time classic, as does his comment about hitting Babe Ruth in the backside. I had a chance to get to know Pedro a little better during his time with the Mets and one thing that was always constant was he could make you laugh when you least expected it.
Some highlights from the transcript:
Q. You’ve had a unique relationship with the fans in the Bronx over the years. Why do you think that is? Have you thought about that over your career? And what about it do you enjoy?
‘PEDRO MARTINEZ: I don’t know if you realize this, but because of you guys in some ways, I might be at times the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium. I can honestly say that. I mean, I have been a big fan of baseball for a long time, since I was a kid. My first ball I ever got from a Big League player I actually got to purchase in Dodger Stadium in a silent auction, was Reggie Jackson. I was actually a big fan of the Yankees, too.
For some reason with all the hype and different players that have passed by, maybe because I played for the Red Sox is probably why you guys made it such a big deal every time I came in, but you know, I have a good bond with the people. After playing in New York, I went to realize something: New York fans are very passionate and very aggressive. But after it all, after you take your uniform off and you deal with the people, they’re real human beings. It’s all just being fans.
I have all the respect in the world for the way they enjoy being fans. Sometimes they might be giving you the middle finger, just like they will be cursing you and telling you what color underwear you’re wearing. All those things you can hear when you’re a fan. But at the end of the day, they’re just great fans that want to see the team win. I don’t have any problem with that.
Q. Two things: One, when you say you’re one of the most influential players to come in here, do you mean as a visiting player or
PEDRO MARTINEZ: I think in every aspect, the way you guys have used me and abused me since I’ve been coming to Dodger Stadium (sic), just because I wore actually a red uniform just like this one while playing for Boston, it’s been like I remember quotes in the paper, “Here comes the man that New York loves to hate.” Man? None of you have probably ever eaten steak with me or rice and beans with me to understand what the man is about. You might say the player, the competitor, but the man? You guys have abused my name. You guys have said so many things, have written so many things.
There was one time I remember when I was a free agent, there was talk that I might meet with Steinbrenner. One of your colleagues had me in the papers with horns and a tail, red horns and a tail. That’s a sign of the devil. I’m a Christian man. I don’t like those things. I take those things very serious.
Those are the kind of things that the fans actually get used to seeing, and actually sometimes influence those people to believe that you are a bad person, that you are like an ogre. I see Mariano, and that’s probably the player I admire the most because of how he goes about his business, how he does it, and he remains a humble Christian man admired by everyone in baseball.
The way people perceive me in New York, I don’t know if they got to know me a little bit better after I got to the Mets. It’s totally different than the way I am; I just compete. And yes, I will do whatever it takes to beat you. But I’m a human being after I take my clothes off. A lot of people can witness that any time, anywhere, any moment.
Q. The other thing is going back to 2004, Game 7, the old Yankee Stadium, what do you remember when you came into that game from the bullpen? What do you remember about that scene?
PEDRO MARTINEZ: I remember being calm, really calm, ready for anything. Actually I had a little bit of anger inside of me, not towards the Yankees or towards whoever, towards the tweaking that the whole scenario took. Actually, and I’m sorry I’m going to recall this because it was an ugly scene this is probably the first time I’m ever going to talk about it publicly. But when Zim came over to me, I thought he was going to just give me advice or something, just “Go, Pedro, you need to slow down or something,” or try to make it look a little bit different.
But at that time, I’m going to be honest right now, my shoulder was barking. I was pitching on three days’ rest, I think. It was two men on. I loaded the bases with a hit by pitch that wasn’t a hit by pitch. The ball hit the bat on Karim Garcia, and Zim charged me, and I think he’s going to say something, but his reaction was totally the opposite, was trying to punch my mouth and told me a couple of bad words about my mom.
I just had to react and defend myself kind of. But the tweak that it took made me look like a monster that just came in to play Yankee Stadium. And you know what I did, go out there, compete, and nothing else. I remember getting back to my dugout and seeing middle fingers. My mom, poor mom. I’m glad she’s blessed by God because all those curses were, I mean, unbelievable.
I remember going back, and I blew up the lead, yes, I blew up the lead, but I don’t regret it. It was a great moment. It was a great game. I competed. I did everything I had to do to actually win a ballgame. Fell short. So what? I’m not the last one. It’s not going to be the last one. It’s not going to be the first time ever. That’s why you go out there, to try to survive a game, win it or lose it. I had the great honor to pitch one of the biggest games that a player has ever played in the whole stadium. And that’s a good memory for me to have.
But I didn’t like the tweaking that you guys gave to the whole scenario, because I don’t feel like it was my fault. And at that time when I threw that pitch, I was just trying to jam Karim Garcia. But when you’re struggling, no, you don’t know how it feels. Shoulder barking, it’s a hard thing to deal with.
Q. Just to go back to that day at Fenway, just to clarify, do you regret what happened that day with Zimmer?
PEDRO MARTINEZ: Of course I do. It’s something ugly. I thought when I saw Zim down on the ground, I thought so much of my dad. I respect older people, I respect elders; I don’t condone anything like that. But I’ve got no choice. I’ve got no choice but to just respond and get away. I’ve never had any incidents, and I’m going to knock on wood because it’s been like that my whole life. I never had any incidents in the streets, not here, not in the Dominican.
When I was a kid, yes, I got a lot of punching. When I was a kid, yes. (Laughter).
But after I’ve been a grown up and knowing better, I never got in trouble in the States, in the Dominican, anywhere, except on the baseball field, and on the baseball field those things happen. That’s part of baseball, actually.
But with a coach, uh uh, never. Teammate, no, never had any problem. I hope it never happens again. But it was something that we have to let go kind of, and forget about it, because it was a disgrace for baseball. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I was involved in it, and it’s one of the moments that I don’t like to see. I don’t like to see it because I’m not a violent man.
Q. Just to follow up on that situation with Zim, the first part of my question, did you ever reach out to Zim to apologize or reconcile and have closure on that situation? My second question is this: Coming into Yankee Stadium what is your mindset because right now you’re coming into the World Series. What is the difference coming in as a Red Sox pitcher and as a Phillie pitcher playing against the Yankees given the rivalry that you had with the Red Sox while you were a Boston pitcher?
PEDRO MARTINEZ: Well, the same situation. This is the last time I’m going to talk about this, and please understand that and respect that, and I know you all do, and you guys do a great job about that. But the Zim situation, we are both, I consider, mature people, Zim more than I am, wiser than I am, and he acknowledged that it wasn’t my fault; that it was his fault.
I never wanted to apologize to you guys because why should I apologize to you guys or come to a press conference and say, I apologize for something I didn’t intend to do. It’s a normal human reaction to defend yourself when you feel threatened, and that’s what happened to me at that point. I had to defend myself, and I know how. Don’t let this small body fool you; I know how. I just don’t put it into play.
I mean, that Zim situation is over with. I didn’t feel like I had to apologize at that time, give an apology because I didn’t feel like I did anything to apologize. But it’s something I’m not happy about, it’s something I don’t condone, and it’s something that I don’t want to see in baseball.
As far as the other question, coming in against the Yankees, this is the first time I’m going to play a World Series. I think my World Series was in 2004 and 2003 and the previous years when we played them in the playoffs and we couldn’t beat them. But in 2004 after we beat them, I didn’t feel like the other team stood a chance against us with all the respect they had, and they still carried from me. I don’t think that St. Louis had any chance. After we beat the Yankees here, after being 0 3, St. Louis didn’t have a chance to my understanding, and that’s the way we proved it to be.
Coming against the Yankees in a World Series, Phillies uniform, it’s just a special day. It’s a special occasion for me.