Edgar Martinez delivers one more time as he enters Baseball Hall of Fame
Jul 21, 2019, 5:23 PM
The master of preparation had 10 years to prepare for his moment on the biggest stage in the game of baseball.
With 53 Hall of Famers sitting behind him and a crowd in excess of 55,000 – many wearing Mariners jerseys and tee shirts and chanting “Edddddddd-gar, Eddddddddd-gar” – in front of him, Edgar Martinez stepped to the microphone, giant prescription glasses on, speech in hand, as ready to deliver as he was at the plate with runners on base.
There had been 20 rewrites of a speech that had so many bases to cover. His upbringing in Puerto Rico, his two homes and two fan bases (Seattle and his home country), the men on stage with him, teammates, coaches, friends and most of all family all important to him. As with everything else he did in his career, he left nothing to chance. By his estimation he rehearsed his speech 50 times. And even with the thorough preparation, when asked at an event Saturday night what he was looking forward to most about being on the stage in Cooperstown, he quipped that he couldn’t wait to be off the stage.
If there were nerves, butterflies or any sort of anxiousness about getting up in front of tens of thousands of fans without a bat in hand, they did not show.
Edgar Martinez knocked his speech out of the park.
In his 12 minutes and 32 seconds at the microphone, the humility he showed throughout his career was on full display. Edgar’s speech was in large part about thanking those who helped him on the road to baseball immortality. For a man who had always been his own best coach, he was not one to stand alone in the crowning moment of his career.
Edgar paid tribute to those who raised him, telling the story of the reaction of his aunt watching Roberto Clemente inspiring him to play the game and remembering listening to the radio with his grandfather to hear Tony Perez’s winter league games.
“From my grandparents who raised me and instilled in me values like hard work, respect and discipline, to my whole family, teammates coaches. My people from Maguayo, where I grew up, thank you for providing a sanctuary that protected me. In Maguayo my time was consumed with baseball, the game I love. I am so fortunate to be raised in Maguayo, Dorado, Puerto Rico. Gracias mi gente.”
Martinez thanked the late Marty Martinez, who scouted and eventually signed him to the Mariners, and his cousin Carmello Martinez, who talked him into signing when Edgar thought his better path in life might be to continue in his job in Puerto Rico.
“I thought I was going to school, playing on the weekends, new car, nice clothes,” he remembered. “Why risk what I had for $4,000? He told me, ‘You can make it, give it a chance.’ We argued and he won.”
In talking about his teammates, too numerous to mention by name – “You know who you are. I love you and consider you brothers for life.” – Martinez displayed both warmth and humor. On Harold Reynolds, Alvin Davis and Dave Valle, who were all with the Mariners when he was first called up, Edgar thanked them for teaching him what it was to be a big leaguer.
On Jay Buhner, who gave Edgar’s video introduction:
“Bad to the Bone,” he said. “Thank you for being like a brother to me and being an outspoken leader in the clubhouse. I love you.”
The mention of fellow Hall of Famer Randy Johnson brought the humor.
“Big Unit. When you went to play for Arizona a reporter quoted me in the paper. I said something about you that you didn’t like. You came to me and asked, ‘What was that in the paper?’ and I said ‘What paper?’ And then you told me, ‘Don’t worry, it will hurt but only for a minute.’
“I love that you have the intensity and drive that gave our team an edge.”
Edgar called getting to watch Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing from the on-deck circle a treat and then thanked him for mentioning Edgar in his own Hall of Fame induction speech in 2016, when Junior said Edgar should be up on the stage as well.
Perhaps taking a cue from Junior, Edgar had some lobbying to do as well when he talked about his skipper, Lou Piniella.
“Lou, you meant so much to me and my career. I loved talking hitting with you,” he started. “You are a very special man and I hope you get the call soon. You deserve it.”
Edgar’s warmest moments came when talking about his family, a family he got to watch grow and grow up after he retired. A family that helped put aside any bad feelings of not receiving the call from the Hall year after year. An upside, according to Edgar, of it taking 10 years to finally reach the pinnacle was that his kids were older and could better appreciate and enjoy their time in Cooperstown. It was clear they did and it was clear that Edgar delighted in their enjoyment.
Finally, there was appreciation for the fans who turned out in Cooperstown in impressive numbers, as noted by the ceremony’s emcee, Brian Kenny of the MLB Network.
“Seattle fans, thank you for always being there for me,” said Edgar. “Since 1987 you gave me your unconditional support and it was even more incredible in the last 10 years. The support that you gave me over the social media has really helped me to get here today. Thank you Mariners fans, you are the best fans I could ever hope for. I am so glad that I stayed with you my whole career. I love you, Seattle fans.”
The special connection between Mariners fans and Edgar Martinez was in full evidence Sunday in Cooperstown. It was a moment both waited for, for 10 long years. Seattle fans always knew what they had in Edgar, but in those 10 years the rest of baseball came to learn that he was much more than a good DH up in the Northwest corner’s outpost of baseball.
Perhaps a silver lining to the long wait was his story got the notice it was due. On Sunday, Edgar gave it a beautiful finish.
“This is the day I never imagined could happen when I was growing up in Puerto Rico or when I was in the minor leagues wondering when my chance would come. Honestly, there were times in the last 10 years I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Thank you once again to everyone along the way who made this dream come true. I am so grateful and proud. Thank you.”
Edgar Martinez. Hall of Famer.