Mariners great Edgar Martinez finally makes baseball’s Hall of Fame
Unlike the other men inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, Edgar Martinez was not possessed by a yearning to pursue pro baseball as a young adult.
He was attending college in Puerto Rico while working a night shift in a factory. Baseball was for weekends, a recreation unlikely to lead to an occupation.
“I had a new car and nice clothes,” Martinez told the induction ceremony audience, recalling how the $4,000 offer he got to sign with the Mariners didn’t wow him.
It was a good life but not a particularly enchanted one. A new car and nice clothes are not going to lead to, say, a street named for you in Seattle.
But Martinez was nothing if not wise. When his cousin Carmelo Martinez, who’d reached the big leagues from a similar upbringing in Puerto Rico, insisted that Edgar had the talent to change careers, he capitulated.
“We argued,” he said Sunday. “He won.”
Carmelo Martinez was among the thousands of spectators who traveled to upstate New York on behalf of one of the most fundamentally pure hitters in baseball history, and Edgar didn’t let them down.
He could have made a reference to the ridiculously long time the Mariners organization kept him captive in the minor leagues — he didn’t play his first full season in the majors until he was 27 — or the 10 years he was made to wait for Hall enshrinement.
Instead, the acceptance speech was a kind of love letter to the communities that shaped his remarkable career: Dorado, the Puerto Rican town where he grew up, and Seattle, where his popularity remains unparalleled among the city’s pro sports figures.
Enshrinement speeches are joyous occasions requiring the inductee to balance humility and gratitude with a shot of humor. Edgar’s thank-you list was as extensive as his batting accomplishments. He paid tribute to the late Marty Martinez, the scout who in 1982 finally signed that reluctant prospect with the new car.
He mentioned such long-forgotten coaches who helped groom him for the majors as Bill Plummer, known in Seattle only as the Mariners skipper who preceded Lou Piniella. When Bill Plummer is noted in an induction speech, it’s an indication many more names are on the thank-you list, from trainers with obscure tasks to baseball legends.
Martinez shared fond memories of Ken Griffey Jr., who was in attendance as a Class of 2016 inductee, and Piniella, a Veteran’s Committee nominee recently denied in a close vote.
“He meant so much to me and my career,” said Edgar. “From the first time I talked to him, I knew a profound change was coming to the Mariners organization.”
“You are a special manager. I hope you get the call soon,” he said of Piniella’s Hall chances. “You deserve it.”
As Martinez spoke, the TV camera occasionally found Randy Johnson sitting in the background. What ex-teammate of the notoriously edgy lefty could resist a “Big Unit” anecdote?
Edgar remembered a facing Johnson after he was traded from the Mariners — an encounter of the worst kind. Seems Johnson had read a newspaper article that included Martinez’ less-than-reverential depiction of the pitcher.
Before a Mariners game against the Diamondbacks, Johnson asked Edgar about his quote in the paper.
Edgar: “Uh, what paper?”
Randy: “Don’t worry. It will hurt, but only for a minute.”
The laughs soon turned into tears, as Martinez identified each of his three children in the crowd and said, “I love you.”
Of his wife Holli, he continued: “You got your master’s degree and became a successful professional. You are such a great example to our kids. I love you for who you are and for your drive.”
Only the summation awaited.
“I’m so fortunate to have two homes: Puerto Rico and Seattle,” Edgar said. “Seattle fans, thank you for being there for me. Since 1997, you have given me your unconditional support, and it was even more prevalent in the last 10 years. The support you gave me in social media really helped me 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 until the end of my career. I love you, Seattle fans.”
As the crowd gave a final cheer, Harold Reynolds, a former teammate of Martinez who works for the MLB network as an analyst, suggested Edgar “looked like a move star up there.”
Edgar Martinez a movie star? It’s an idea his cousin might run with.