Love your enemy: a Yanks fan on the greatness of Pedro

I am a Yankees (and Cowboys — love me!) fan, and therefore probably shouldn’t like Pedro Martinez as much as I do. The newly elected Hall of Famer spent the majority of his career with the Red Sox, then had a memorable run with the Mets and finished up his big league tenure pitching for the Phillies against the Yanks in the 2009 World Series. But Pedro, due to his electrifying talent and charisma, was part of some of my all-time favorite baseball moments, even when they involved him beating the Yankees or beating senior citizens who worked for the club.

1: Pedro outduels Clemens, May 28, 2000

Not only am I a Yankees/Cowboys fan, I am — still — a fan of Roger Clemens. I feel like most Yankees/Red Sox/Blue Jays fans don’t really care for him anymore (although I for some reason think Astros/Sugar Land Skeeters fans still dig him), but I look back fondly on The Rocket’s career, and I think my appreciation of him started with this game.

I remember, after getting home from the beach, watching the entire thing in the basement of my old house in Brooklyn. Unlike the Pedro-Clemens matchup in the 1999 American League Championship Series, when Clemens stunk and the Sox ended up winning in a rout, this time, they matched each other pitch for pitch until the ninth inning. It was also in old Yankee Stadium, so the atmosphere was electric and the seats behind home plate were filled the entire game. Then, in the top of the ninth, friggin’ Trot Nixon hit a two-run homer, and the Sox went on to win, 2-0. Nixon is up there with Curt Schilling, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis as my all-time least-favorite Sox players based solely on this home run.

2: Pedro chucks Zimmer, 2003 ALCS, Game 3

Clemens vs. Pedro again! Everyone remember this one. I watched this game with a few friends at Jeremy’s, a bar by the South Street Seaport known for its giant styrofoam beers and the bras that adorn the walls/ceiling. I recently rewatched the extended clip from this incident, and I had completely forgotten how messed up the pitch Pedro threw to Karim Garcia in the fourth inning that got everyone heated was. He unleashes a fastball right behind Garcia’s head, leading Garcia to, understandably, make this face:

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Then, in the bottom of the fourth, Clemens threw a pitch that was high and inside but nowhere near Manny Ramirez’s head, and things got real crazy:

I was standing at the bar waiting for a beer when Pedro threw Don Zimmer to the ground, and a random woman grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes and yelled, “What are we gonna do?!” I had no answer.

3: 2003 ALCS, Game 7

Once more, Clemens vs. Pedro! Clearly they should have gone into the Hall of Fame together. I was a junior in college (University of Scranton 4 life), and had a night class scheduled for when this game occurred. My newswriting teacher had received an advanced copy of the movie “Shattered Glass” (Hayden Christensen in his greatest role) to show us, and she said if we missed class, it counted as two absences, which would have screwed with my grade.

I actually showed up to class early, but immediately decided my duties as a Yankees fan were more important than my duties as a Communications Major, so I left. Right move! As after a terrifying 7 1/2 innings, Grady Little left Pedro in too long, the Yanks rallied, and Aaron Boone eventually did that thing he’s famous for. I ended up emailing my teacher and told her I skipped class because I felt I couldn’t miss the game. She basically called me an idiot, but understood. I think I ended up with a B- in the class.

4: Summer of Pedro, Shea Stadium 2005

No 2004 games will be on this list, how dare you. After graduating college in ’05, I returned home to Brooklyn and spent the summer putting on a solid 25-30 pounds thanks to too many Bud Heavies and Bubba Burgers. I also went to several Mets games with my younger brother Kevin, and we tried to go whenever Pedro was pitching at Shea. I know the Mets have had several impressive pitchers since 2005 (Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon), but that first summer Pedro pitched for the Mets was the most fun I ever had watching games at glorious, gone-but-not-forgotten Shea Stadium. Two specific moments stand out:

1) In the middle of an inning that season, the sprinklers went off on the field. Most pitchers facing that situation would either run away or pout (I feel like Mike Mussina would’ve pouted), but Pedro stuck his head right in front of a sprinkler to cool off, then walked around with a goofy smile on his face.

2) On June 7 vs. the Astros, Pedro had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning. This was during the Mets’ infamous run of never having thrown a no-hitter, and a buzz was starting to build. In the break between the bottom of the sixth and the top of the seventh, a few dudes — Mets fans — sitting down the aisle from Kevin and I started discussing the fact that Pedro was throwing a no-no. Not only were they breaking the rule of “Don’t talk about a no-hitter while it’s happening” (settle down all you “Duhh, you can’t actually jinx a no-hitter by talking about it” people), they were predicting which player on the Astros would end up getting the hit! I specifically remember them guessing it would be Brad Ausmus, Houston’s light-hitting catcher. Kevin, not surprisingly, was becoming enraged, but he, surprisingly if you know him, did not start screaming at them. With one out in the seventh, Chris Burke hit a home run. Pedro ended up throwing a complete game, striking out Burke to end it. Now that I think about it, Kev might have started screaming at them after the home run.

I currently live in Boston, and over the past few months I’ve occasionally had people commenting on my Yankees gear while I’m out and about. The conversations have tended to be them going, “I hate the Yankees, but Derek Jeter is all class.” With me responding, “I don’t care what you think about Jeter, as long as you love and respect Bernie Williams.” That second part might not be true.

As fans, it’s natural to hate the players on rival teams, but in the case of guys like Pedro Martinez, it’s OK to love them a bit, too.

— Brian Cougar

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Love your enemy: a Yanks fan on the greatness of Pedro

Your founding father of Ring Intensity: RIP Ultimate Warrior

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Ultimate Warrior was one of those perfect wrestlers for people around my age (30) due to the fact that, when I was a kid, he came across as a real-life superhero who was so powerful he could even stand toe to toe with Hulk Hogan; then, when looking back on him as an adult, he came across as a real-life lunatic so maniacal it made complete sense that he was able to stand toe to toe with the ridiculousness that was Hulkamania.

I remember watching the Hogan/Warrior encounter at the 1990 Royal Rumble and how it resulted in the greatest double clothesline of all time. I remember, since my household did not order Wrestlemania VI LIVE ON PPV, the anticipation I felt sitting in the auditorium before school the next day as I awaited word on who won the Hogan/Warrior title vs. title match. I remember the end of Wrestlemania VIII, and how, while Hogan was being attacked by Papa Shango and Sid Justice, the Warrior made a surprise return to save/pose with the Hulkster. I remember my younger brother having an Ultimate Warrior wrestling buddy. I remember Papa Shango making Warrior vomit via voodoo, and how weird that was. I remember kids in school during the early 1990s saying the original Warrior had died, and a different guy was portraying him.

I was at my friend’s house watching RAW in the late 1990s when we switched over to Monday Nitro during a commercial break only to find the Warrior had returned to confront the now evil Hollywood Hulk Hogan. And it was amazing! And then he talked for like 25 minutes! And it was less amazing but still pretty enjoyable! They would go on to have a rematch — which I again missed LIVE ON PPV — but that one didn’t turn out so well, and soon after, he was gone.

But he would still pop up. While not doing much work at my first post-college job in 2005, I discovered that the Warrior had a blog, and it was, not surprisingly, pretty bonkers. He signed off the first post I read with, “Your founding father of ring intensity.” So I clearly had to steal that line, and started ending my own personal emails with it.

After hours of driving through heavy snow while helping a friend move back to NY from North Dakota, we decided the best way to unwind after stopping at a hotel was to drink too many Miller High Lifes and watch an Ultimate Warrior DVD. After one Warrior promo, all the stresses of the road had faded away.

This past weekend, I was in New Orleans for Wrestlemania 30, and there he was again. During the show, my wonderful girlfriend stopped by the merchandise booth and ended up randomly buying me a Warrior T-shirt. Near the end of the show, the Warrior was the last to come out as the newly inducted Hall of Fame class was introduced. On Monday night, he made an appearance on RAW. When I was going to bed Tuesday night, I got a text from a friend that Warrior was dead.

During his final appearance on RAW, Warrior said, “No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others … then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him.”

The Ultimate Warrior, from parts unknown, has a strong place in my memory.

— Brian Cougar

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