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Sunday, March 30, 2008

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I was at that All-Star Game, when all the players came in from centerfield with Ted Williams. That was a great, moving moment, but it lacked the electricity that Pedro provided just minutes later.

In retrospect Pedro's performance to open that game seems even more mythical once you add the PED layer to the story. We are left, in some ways, with the image of a stringy magician somehow making a whole series of artificially Paul Bunyanesque sluggers look plain silly, Pedro's accomplishment in front of his hometown fans seems almost like a parable now.

It was actually six no-hit innings in Cleveland. not five.

In that 17K game, the Yankees did not hit a fair ball on any of Pedro's final 52 pitches!

Indeed SF, looking back it's amazing watching him strike out Walker, Sosa and McGwire. Parable indeed.

Indeed, it was, RS, thanks. Corrected.

My favorite moment from Pedro's '99 is definitely that ALDS Game 5. The Sox were in the midst of rallying from a 2-0 games deficit. Saberhagen crapped the bed, and I fully expected a third opening-round loss to Cleveland in five years. Then Pedro, who was too hurt to start, comes in and just guts himself through those final six innings while the Sox come back to tie and take the lead.

Pedro didn't have his best stuff, and he still struck out eight. What a game. I still remember watching the TV as I lay on the living room floor, hanging on every pitch.

Any pitcher with just one of the three Big Moments Pedro racked up in 1999 (ASG, 17-K, ALDS) would be remembered as one of the greats of the game.

I was working in a kitchen that year in the South End, listening to every game on the radio. It was an incredible year - I still remember the buzz every time Pedro pitched.

But looking at that boxscore makes me shudder. Darren Lewis hitting second, Mike Stanley batting cleanup, Butch Huskey at DH and hitting fifth, and Damon Buford playing CF and hitting 7th. Ugh.

Buford got 300 ABs that year with an OPS+ of 65. Our team OPS+ was 100. It makes what Pedro did all the more spectacular. Pedro carried that team on his shoulders all season long. Amazing.

Pedro's relief appearance against Cleveland will forever be the stuff of legend. That's a story I'll tell my kids over and over. It was about a month before I got married.

And it won't be long before I bury my anger at the diva-ish way Pedro slithered out of town so I can start teling the boy how great Pedro was when he pitched for RS, especially in 1999.

(My second favorite Pedro moment was when he chucked the angry, charging Gerbil to the ground in '04. I respected the Gerbil, but he deserved that.)

The most enduring memory I have about the 1999 ALCS game is the Cleveland crowd. They knew. Up until that point, the two teams were just crushing anything that came near the plate - it was going to be a back and forth slugfest all night (Boston had, after all, won the previous two games by a combined score of 32-10, and the Indians knew they were going to have to outslug the Sox to win).

Then Pedro came out of the bullpen. And you could feel the whole crowd - even through the television - go "oh, shit". The energy just went out of them. It didn't matter that he was injured and didn't have his fastball - this was Pedro Martinez.

I will never forget the next six innings. And I will always, always be grateful that I got to watch that man in his prime.

When I moved to Boston, I was not a Red Sox fan in the slightest. Watching this season unfold though (1999 was the first year I didn't go home for the summer) put me on my track to Sox fandom. By the time September rolled around, I was a believer.

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