Every day of the World Series Major League Baseball sends out an email setting forth the ceremonial stuff for that night’s game. Who will sing the National Anthem, God Bless America and who will throw out the first pitch are all included.
Today’s email made me smile, as it revealed that Dennis Martinez will be throwing the first pitch. Which, in turn, allows me to remind people about Dennis Martinez’s pretty spiffy career. A career which, like those of a lot of good-but-not-Hall-of-Fame players has gotten overlooked in the years since he retired. For a great, long overview of Martinez’s career, check out this bio of him by The Society for American Baseball Research. Here’s a digest version:
Martinez was the first Nicaraguan to play in Major League Baseball. He is also the all-time wins leader for Latino pitchers overall, with 245. An impressive total indeed when one realizes that, on and off throughout his career, he served in swingman and relief roles. He pitched in 692 games overall, but came in from the bullpen in 130 of them.
It’s also impressive considering that, in the early portion of his career, he battled alcoholism. It was a family trait, as his father suffered from it as well. Martinez got help for his alcoholism in 1983, the year his Baltimore Orioles won the World Series. It was a World Series and playoffs in which Martinez did not even pitch due to his physical and personal problems as well as his ineffectiveness on the mound. Despite not participating in the championship run, to this day Martinez proudly wears his 1983 World Series ring because it reminds him of the year he took control of his life and addiction.
Martinez was traded to the Montreal Expos in 1986. He was granted free agency at the end of that season and again after 1987, but signed back with Montreal each time after finding no takers, most likely due to rampant collusion by the owners at the time. He’d stay with Montreal through the 1993 season. During that time he authored his signature accomplishment as a major leaguer when he tossed a perfect game against the Dodgers on July 28, 1991. He was the first Latin American-born pitcher to pitch a perfect game. His time in Montreal likewise reestablished him as a top-of-the-rotation starter after several years of difficulty in Baltimore. If Martinez were ever to make the Hall of Fame via the Veterans Committee, his cap would likely have an Expos logo on it.
Martinez joined the Indians for he 1994 season. He won 32 games in three seasons for the Indians and pitched in all three rounds of the 1995 playoffs for the Tribe, including two starts in the World Series. He’d finish his career with stops in Seattle and Atlanta. He retired following the 1998 season, having notched 23 years in the majors.
Throughout his ups and his downs, Martinez was always a popular player. Expos fans remember him fondly, as do Orioles fans of a certain age. Even though he only played three years in Cleveland, and even though they lost the only World Series in which he appeared for them, he’s loved there as well. And thus he’ll get the honor of throwing out the first pitch on a night when the Indians can win their first championship since 1948.