Canadiens Magazine

The Last Word: Pedro Martinez

Wednesday, 31.08.2011 / 3:30 PM / CANADIENS magazine
He arrived in Montreal a wild-throwing young righthander and left the city a legend who would go on to become one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history. The only Expos hurler to ever win a Cy Young Award, Pedro Martinez used his 95-plus mph fastball to terrorize hitters for 18 seasons. Never one to bite his tongue, we sat down with the 39-year-old future Hall-of-Famer to find out what place Montreal still holds in his heart.


What’s it like for you whenever you come back to Montreal?
PEDRO MARTINEZ:
It’s home. It’s like coming back home. I remember everything about this city and it sometimes feels like I never left.

What do you miss most about the city?
PM:
How peaceful a place like this can be and how great it is to live in Montreal. It’s so easy to get along with everybody you see walking down the street. This is just a special place.

Did you have any favorite Montreal hangouts back in the day?
PM:
A few restaurants for sure. Montreal has some great ones. I always make sure to get to Le Piment Rouge; their General Tao’s Chicken is amazing. For steak I go to Moishes and for Italian, I go to La Campagnola. Whenever I’m here, eating is never a problem. (laughs)

Did you become a hockey fan at all during your time in Montreal?
PM:
I’ve been a Canadiens fan for a long time and it probably helps that whenever I catch a game here in person, they win!

Pedro still remembers Theo's highlight-reel saves.
What player do you remember most from watching games in Montreal?
PM:
I remember the goalie… Jose Theodore. He was good and used to give them a chance to win every night.

You made it a point to salute Expos fans when news broke that the team was leaving the city. What did it mean to you personally when Montreal lost the Expos?
PM:
I was extremely sad when it became official. To be perfectly honest, part of the reason I came back to the National League in 2005 was to get the chance to play at the Big O again. So I never got the chance to do it. I was so sad I almost lost my interest of being back in the NL after that.

How big a difference would an outdoor, downtown stadium have made for the
Expos? Could it have saved the team?
PM:
I think so, I really do. The fans here are so passionate and they know their baseball. Plus, we were all so comfortable here that none of us wanted to leave. In my opinion, it not only could have worked here, it could still work. Actually, if we could have done what the Canadiens did as a franchise with the way they promote hockey and support the team, anything would’ve been possible. We would have gotten our downtown park and the fans would still have their Expos or “Nos Amours” as they used to call us.

You won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2004, but which team was the best you ever played on: that one or the 1994 Expos?
PM:
Those are two pretty strong teams. We were 74-40 before the strike in Montreal – who can ever forget that? What I can tell you without a doubt is that our Expos team had more potential to probably win two, three or even four World Series in a row. We were that good and we knew we could beat anybody.

Do you still keep in touch with any former Expos teammates?
PM:
I’m tight with a bunch of those guys: Vladdy Guerrero, Oogie (Ugueth) Urbina, Jose Paniagua, Moises Alou and a lot of others. I see Marquis Grissom and Cliff Floyd a lot too.

Pedro shows some love to 'Spos manager Felipe Alou.
Was Felipe Alou the best manager you ever played for?
PM:
Yes, by far. He’s a great man and he really had the biggest impact on me as a player but especially as a person. He was the best in the business and the game misses Felipe, for sure.

Most annoying Olympic Stadium sound: the clacking of empty seats or a braying bullhorn?
PM:
(laughs) I’d say the seats. The seats were bad, plus it just reminded us that they weren’t full!

Is there a better mascot in the business than Youppi!?
PM:
That’s a tough one. Youppi! and I are pretty tight, but I have to go with the Phillie Phanatic. But I will say he’s not as nice as Youppi! and he never will be.

There were rumors you may be considering a comeback? Any truth to that?
PM:
I’m leaning towards not coming back. With each day I get more comfortable being at home. Getting a chance to see all my family together it really pulls me closer to home.
 
Are you enjoying retired life so far? Do you have any big plans for your golden years?
PM:
I think I am. (laughs) My first goal is to go on a long vacation with my whole family. The tricky part is we all live far apart so I have to get them all together first.

The Yankees always had a warm welcome for Pedro when he was in town.
You will soon be on the Hall of Fame ballot, so given a choice, which cap would you
prefer to wear into Cooperstown?
PM:
I thought about that recently and I would be just as happy to go in as a Red Sox player or an Expo. It would mean a lot to me to do that for the fans in Montreal who have lost so much, but it’s MLB’s decision and I’m pretty sure I would be inducted with Boston.

So, just how intense is the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, really?
PM:
The media makes it all much worse, but we competed at such a high level for those years that it reached a whole new level. It looked like we really hated each other, didn’t it? (laughs)

Do the Yankees in fact remain your “daddy”?
PM:
You tell me! All I know is I was the only guy to ever strikeout 17 Yankees at the old Yankee Stadium. They should have put the word “daddy” somewhere in that stadium before they tore it down in my honor.

Pedro gets a first-hand look at Don Zimmer's close-shorn locks.
What did it feel like to grasp Don Zimmer’s bald head in your bare hands during the 2004 ALCS?
PM:
I can laugh about it now, but it was a mistake. A mistake for him to come at me the
way he did and then I was just defending myself. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have just run around the field and made him chase me – now that would have been really funny.

What pitcher today would Pedro Martinez pay to watch pitch?
PM:
Roy Halladay. No question. He’s the man you want to watch pitch whenever he’s out there.

Who do you think will win the World Series this year?
PM:
With all their talent, you obviously have to like the Phillies and Red Sox and not just because I played for both of those teams. (laughs) But watch out for Milwaukee, they could surprise people.

What did it mean to recently have your likeness join the honored few baseball paintings at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery?
PM:
It was really special and really emotional for me. I started thinking about my dad a lot and I pictured him smiling from above in that better place.


How much did you actually weigh when you first arrived in Montreal from the Dodgers in 1993?
PM:
Not much. Just look at the photos! (laughs)

Do you ever miss your Jheri curl hairstyle from your early days with the ‘Spos?
PM:
I don’t have to miss it. I can still style it that way anytime I want. I still have my ‘fro, don’t you worry about that. (laughs)


For a complete statistical overview of Pedro’s legendary career head to mlb.com/team/
player.jsp?player_id=118377
, or for an extended biography on the man himself check out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_Martinez.



This article, written by Manny Almela, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 25 No. 6.


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The Last Word: Dana White
The Last Word: Richie Sambora
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