WASHINGTON (AP) — Pedro Martinez said memories of father caused him to become emotional Friday as his portrait was unveiled at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery.
The 40-year-old pitcher became the youngest of more than 50 baseball figures depicted on the Smithsonian walls and the fourth Latino — joining Juan Marichal, the late Roberto Clemente and Sammy Sosa.
Martinez was joined at the ceremony by his wife, his children, older brother Ramon and their extended family. The Dominican Republic Ambassador Roberto Saladin was also on hand as well as Marichal, the only baseball Hall of Famer from Martinez’s native land.
However, what made Martinez choke up was who wasn’t there — his late father Paolino.
“My dad passed away two years ago in July and I’ve never had my family all together before so this was my first chance to say in public how much I appreciate what they have done for me,” Martinez told The Associated Press after the ceremony. “I guess the moment just got me. A whole lot of emotion came out that I didn’t really expect.”
Susan Miller-Havens, Martinez’s close friend who painted the portrait, also attended the ceremony. The portrait depicts the hard-throwing right hander on the mound for the Dominican Republic rather than for any of the five teams for which he pitched during his 17-year major league career.
The 5-foot-11 Martinez, who weighed just 154 pounds when he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988 and just 175 while winning three Cy Young Awards from 1997-2000 for the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox, surprised almost everyone by becoming a power pitcher with longevity. An eight-time All Star, Martinez, who hasn’t officially retired although he last pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009, compiled a 219-100 record, a 2.93 earned run average with 3,154 strikeouts.
Saladin praised Martinez for his devotion to helping children in his two countries, the Dominican Republic and the United States (of which Martinez became a citizen in 2006). Saladin called Martinez “an artist with his arm.”
Marichal competed against such Hall of Fame pitchers as Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn and Tom Seaver, but said that he never saw anyone in more in command on the mound than Martinez — who could blow batters away with a blazing fastball or fool them with a devastating changeup.
“Marichal is the best pitcher from the Dominican and he will always be because of the adversity he went through back in (the 1960s and 1970s as a rare Latino star),” Martinez countered.
“Regardless of the numbers, he led the way.”
There is reason to praise both Marichal and Martinez.
“Baseball is ingrained in the soul of our country,” said Saladin, who called Martinez “an icon and a role model.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)