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October 7, 2015

PedroHere’s the highest praise I can give Pedro Martinez and his co-author, Michael Silverman, for their writing of Pedro: it reads just like Pedro sounded throughout his career—honest, witty, fiery, proud, tough and profoundly intelligent.  Pedro gave better interviews in his second language than most public figures (not just athletes but politicians, performers, business executives, etc.) do in their first.

In fact, he rings the bell to start this thoroughly engaging memoir by recounting his post-game press conference after losing Game 2 of the 2004 American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium:

“…Somewhere from the crescent of newspaper and radio reporters, photographers, and TV cameramen who surrounded me, one reporter asked the question, phrasing it in my least favorite way: ‘Talk about…’

‘Talk about how the crowd affected you, the “Who’s your daddy?” chant that was really going, screaming your name—talk about that, please?’

I threw them my changeup.

‘You know what, it actually made me feel really, really good,’ I said, which sparked the ripple of laughter that spread around the room.

I took a quick, unsmiling survey of the faces around me.  To me, the laughter sounded nervous.

And ignorant.

A familiar ignorance.

‘I don’t know why you guys laugh, because I haven’t even answered the question,’ I said, pausing a beat until my scolding brought the tittering to a halt. ‘I actually realized that I was somebody important, because I caught the attention of 60,000 people, plus you guys, plus the whole world watching a guy that if you reverse the time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to actually pay for a bus. And today I was the center of attention of the whole city of New York. I thank God for that.'”

It wasn’t just any mango tree.  It was a mango tree planted in the early 1900s that still stands today on Martinez’ finca (ranch) in Monoguayabo.

As Martinez explains:

“For me, to travel in time and space from a pitcher’s mound, even the one located in baseball’s most sacred and historic diamond, back to a single tree in my homeland was more than a comfortable and familiar routine.

It was a survival skill.  […snip…]

For me, a flashback to my mango tree was nothing new.  It was one more mind trick to play, another weapon to shield me from the doubters and the haters and connect me with my strength: my home and my family.”

I don’t expect ever to see a better pitching performance than Pedro’s six innings of no-hit relief—with a bum shoulder, unable to throw his fastball—against the mighty 1999 Cleveland Indians lineup to clinch the divisional series.  And I don’t expect to see a greater transformation of a sports arena than what Pedro (literally) single-handedly did when he pitched at Fenway Park—turning an all-white bitterly curdled fan base into a joyous, colorful, merengue-dancing celebration of new possibilities, even the possibility of winning a World Series.



From → Books, Sports

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