Pedro makes pitch for Expos 2.0
Entering hall, Martinez fondly recalls Montreal
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — You can add Pedro Martinez to the list of former Expos hoping for the return of a Major League Baseball club to Montreal.
The three-time Cy Young winner delivered a plea for the return of baseball to Montreal Saturday afternoon at a press conference prior to his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“It’s great that Montreal is facilitating discussions. As soon as possible, we need to get a club back,” he said to an assembled crowd of about 50 journalists. “I think Montreal was robbed of the chance to have a great team that could have marked history.”
Martinez has fond memories of playing in Montreal, which he described as “a fantastic city with fantastic people” and “the safest city I’ve played in.”
He referred again later to his successful time with the Expos, where he won his first Cy Young in 1997, just before leaving to join the Boston Red Sox.
“I feel a lot of pride for having played there — as much as in Boston, New York and Philadelphia — you can say I’ve done the whole Eastern division.” he said. “All my supporters are welcome; all my friends from Montreal are welcome,” he said, speaking the last few words in French.
“All these cities are part of a great baseball tradition. I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to represent baseball in so many different places.”
Martinez, smiling and casually dressed, spoke easily with reporters during the 40-minute news conference. He is the second Dominican to be inducted to the Hall of Fame — Juan Marichal is the first — and spent the first 20 minutes of the conference answering questions from Spanishspeaking media.
“I’ve always been open about the person I am. But to really know me, you need to spend time with me on a daily basis,” he said.
“I’m an ordinary guy once I take off my uniform,” he continued. “I’m likeable, I’m a joker, I like gardening and fishing. I’m a very involved father. I love my mother and I adore gardening with her. My favourite pastime before getting on the mound was to trim my flowers.”
Martinez told the assembled reporters he would deliver his induction speech today in two languages, both English and Spanish.
“You know it’s not a lack of respect,” he said. “Baseball is American and we’re in America. But my roots are Dominican and I plan on respecting them, like I respect you, by doing part of my speech in Spanish.”
Martinez, who finished his career with 219 wins and 100 losses, declined to discuss the specifics of his speech.
“If I’m too emotional, there’s a large part of my speech I won’t be able to deliver,” he said, although he suggested he would put “all the colour and the warmth of my people” into the speech.
Although he only pitched 11 games of his illustrious career with the Expos, Randy Johnson nevertheless has vivid memories of his time in Montreal.
“My time with the organization was special to me,” he said. “When I left university, I signed a contract with the Expos, and I was happy to get to the next level.
“Montreal gave me my first chance; it was the foundation of my career,” said the famous lefthander, who pitched his way to 303 victories and 4,875 strikeouts.
“I still remember my Montreal debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates — I get shivers talking about it — we won the game and I couldn’t have been happier,” he said.
“In 1989, it didn’t go as well and I was demoted before being traded to the Seattle Mariners, who did something we don’t see anymore: they gave me the time to learn my trade. It’s really there where I became the pitcher I was from then on,” he said.
In addition to Martinez and Johnson, Craig Biggio and John Smoltz will be inducted into the Hall of Fame today.
—The Canadian Press
Fireballer Pedro Martinez won his first Cy Young award with the Montreal Expos in 1997.