Pedro! Pedro! Pedro!

This was June of 1999. Pedro was a god in this season and this is what he let his teammates do to him. (Photo by Kuni Taknhnshi and used without permission)

So just when much of the Red Sox fan base is worried, frustrated and at the end of their rope, who shows up in town to cheer us up?

Pedro Martinez.

The best pitcher I have seen in my lifetime was sitting at a folding table in a HomeGoods store in Bedford, Massachusetts over the weekend promoting a charity toy drive supporting the Jimmy Fund and his personal charity back in the Dominican Republic. He was supposed to be there for two hours and he stayed for three and a half, signing autographs for roughly 450 people. I wasn’t one of those 450 but nonetheless I sit here beaming while reading the stories and looking at the photos of his return.

I’m not one of those people who longs for the old days.  I’m happy with living in the now.  BUT whenever the topic of Pedro comes up I wish I could go back to every game I saw him pitch in person and freeze the moment so it was burned in my memory more clearly than it is.  Thank goodness for the Internet so I can go back and look up games to get specifics that might have faded over the years.

If you never saw Pedro Martinez pitch in his heyday (and I’ll admit that it’s a little unnerving that enough time has passed that it’s possible someone reading this might have missed the 1999 version of Pedro) trying to explain how amazing it was to go to a game he was starting is like trying to explain to folks how we all felt that amazing week in 2004 when the Red Sox and Yankees were playing in the ALCS.  Every game that Pedro started was an event.  The park was buzzing regardless of which team the Red Sox were playing and there was always the expectation that you were going to see something amazing.  For his entire time in Boston, there was never a game where you went into it thinking “Boy I hope Pedro is on tonight” because he was always on.  For me, though, the most amazing part about Pedro is that not only was he a fantastic pitcher (first round Hall of Famer if ever there was one) but he had a personality that, while larger than life, was so approachable and likable.

The day of a game he was starting, Pedro’s game face was on and you knew he meant business.  But his off-days?  He’d be in the dugout trash talking guys on first base, fooling around with his teammates and engaging the fans when he could.  How many of us remember his getting taped to a dugout pole during a game?  Here he is, an elite, All Star, Cy Young-winning pitcher, getting so hyper in the dugout that his teammates (led by Nomar Garciaparra) tied him up and taped his mouth shut.

“We’re trying to focus, so we want him out of the dugout most of the time,” says Boston third baseman John Valentin. “Sometimes it’s good when he cuts up like that. But there are times when you want to go, ‘Get the f—- out of here.’ “

Can you imagine anyone saying that about Josh Beckett or Jon Lester?

Pedro Martinez is larger than life, even now.  There are few famous people I’ve met that intimidated me.  Sure I get a little nervous but deep down I’m of the belief that famous people are just like us only luckier in their pursuit of fame and fortune so I eventually calm down.  But Pedro.  Pedro is almost unreal to me.  Some image on a television and projected onto the field that, while he seems so down to earth, is really just unearthly.  If it is possible to adore someone you’ve never met, well, I absolutely adore Pedro Martinez.

It makes me happy that he’s come back to Boston even if only to do some charity work.  Along with the toy drive last weekend, come January he’ll be spending a weekend again supporting the Jimmy Fund at two events on the 13th and 14th (the 14th being the annual New Stars for Young Stars event).

Pedro is also in the news because he told reporters this weekend that he would be officially retiring soon.

“I’m going to [officially announce it], I’m going to do it,” Martinez said. “But I want to throw a party too. I want to make it part of every place that I’m going to be remembered and loved by the fans. I’m going to start by doing something in the Dominican, officially signing the papers, probably coming back to Boston and getting something going with you guys.”

If the Red Sox can bring back Nomar Garciaparra for one game in Spring Training so he could retire as a member of the Red Sox, I see no reason why they can’t do the same with Pedro.  I was very happy that Nomar had that opportunity.  I’ll be out of my mind with delight if Pedro gets it as well.

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