As I begin typing this blog entry, the first pitch is 10 hours and 40 minutes away.
38-year-old Pedro Martinez . . . on the mound . . . in the Bronx . . . trying to prevent the New York Yankees from winning their 27th World Series title.
Talk about Must See TV!
Pedro held a news conference on Tuesday that was riveting (you can watch it here) as he discussed the opportunity to add to his Hall of Fame resume.
“I look at this situation as a blessing,” Pedro told reporters. “I mean, what else would I want? I’m doing the job I love. I’m doing something that not everybody gets to do. If you consider the fact that a few months back I was sitting at home not doing anything — none of you were thinking of me whatsoever, none of you were asking me questions — and today I am here, getting ready to pitch in probably one of the biggest games ever in World Series history.”
Pedro pitched well in Game 2 with a repertoire that probably reminded PawSox fans of Abe Alvarez – slow, slower, and slowest. In the first inning, he threw 70 mph curveballs and 78 mph changeups. In his six-plus innings, his fastball topped out around 86 mph.
It’s certainly not the Pedro that won three Cy Young Awards, but he’s been extremely effective since signing with the Phillies on July 15th for $1 million. In 9 regular season starts, Martinez was 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA. In 2 postseason starts, he’s 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA.
“I think what you’re going to see is something close to what you saw the last time out, because the last couple of times he’s pitched he’s been very consistent,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said on Tuesday. “He’s had tremendous command. He has tremendous feel. He knows how to pitch. He knows more about hitters than probably people give him credit for, because he’ll sit there and study the game and he’ll study the hitters. But also he still has talent. When he executes his pitches as a pitcher should, he’s definitely capable of throwing a very good ballgame. I’d look for him to definitely put us in a place where we can win the game.”
Pedro has an all-time postseason record of 6-3, but all three losses have been to the Yankees – he’s 1-3 with a 4.69 ERA vs. New York and hasn’t won a playoff start against the Yanks since 1999.
Those numbers bring to mind his famous quote during the pennant race of 2004:
“I can’t find a way to beat them at this point,” Pedro said at the time. “You have to give them credit. They didn’t beat my team. They beat me. They’re that good right now. They’re that hot. I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.”
That’s why a sold-out Yankee Stadium will serenade him with “Who’s your daddy?” chants tonight. But Pedro knows that he’ll have Red Sox Nation rooting for him.
“I know that they don’t like the Yankees to win, not even in Nintendo games,” Martinez said. “And knowing that I am part of Boston, I consider myself a Bostonian, as well, too, I’ve been a Montrealer, a Bostonian, and now a New Yorker, and somehow I might become a Philadelphian now. But I’ve only been there for a short period. It’s something that’s a work in progress, and I’m pretty sure that every Boston fan out there can feel proud that I’m going to try to beat the Yankees, and I’m going to give just the same effort I always did for them. They’re special fans, and they will always have my respect.”
He’ll certainly have our undivided attention tonight.
The first pitch is now 9 hours and 50 minutes away.
The return of the New York Yankees to the World Series brings to mind one of the most amusing experiences of my broadcasting career: The time I was verbally abused by the fans at Yankee Stadium.
When I was a TV sports anchor and reporter, I had the good fortune of covering the Fall Classic on a few occasions, including the 1998 matchup between the Yankees and San Diego Padres.
Games 1 and 2 were in the Bronx and I was working for a Fox affiliate that televised the games so they sent me to New York. Our local newscast went on the air immediately after the game broadcast was finished, so my job was to hustle into the locker room as quickly as possible to get a quick interview or two before doing a live postgame report from just outside of Yankee Stadium.
Everything went flawlessly until we set up the camera and turned on bright TV lights in the Yankee Stadium parking lot. At that point, every loudmouth who had enjoyed one too many beers during the game saw the lights and was drawn to them like moths.
There were no security people present, so the hecklers were only a few feet away when I started my live report.
As I began describing the details of the Yankees win, you could hear the insults as clearly as you could hear me, including this classic slam:
“Yo Meatball . . . You’re Too Ugly For TV!”
I had to admit, that was pretty good. And I had never heard “meatball” as a bald man insult before.
When you’re working in TV, whenever there’s an on-air blooper, the folks at the station watch it over and over again. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of my former co-workers pulled it off the shelf when the Yankees hosted Game 1 of the World Series this year.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if a few broadcasters had similar stories to tell this year – especially since the two World Series cities are New York and Philadelphia. In fact, I see that former PawSox pitcher David Wells took some abuse while working the earlier rounds of the playoffs for TBS.
“When I was in Philadelphia earlier this postseason with Cal Ripken Jr., Dennis Eckersley and Ernie Johnson for TBS, we got booed,” Wells told Sports Illustrated. “We were just doing our show out in center field and people were walking by saying, ‘You fat piece of [bleep]. … Tell Cal he’s gay. … Ernie Johnson sucks.’ I’m like, “Who the hell are these people?’ We’ve got no part of baseball. We’re doing the game and TBS stuff and these Phillies fans are just f-bombing us to death.”
At least no one told him he’s too ugly for TV.