10/03/2004 1:58 AM ET
Mariners fans salute Martinez
Postgame ceremony honors 18-year veteran
By Jim Street / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- The offensive numbers Edgar Martinez accumulated during his farewell season with the Mariners fell short of what the best designated hitter in Major League history expected.
|Edgar Martinez says thank you to Seattle fans up close after Saturday's game. (Elaine Thompson/AP)
But this actually is the best way for him to leave -- without any doubts.
"There is a sense of peace within myself that I can [retire] and not wish I could have played one more year," he said. "That is very important. I thought I could do better than I am doing right now, but I feel that I have proved to myself that I exhausted everything I had in me."
He could have finished his career with far worse numbers than a .265 batting average, 12 home runs and 63 RBIs and still be the most popular professional athlete in town. He helped keep the Mariners in Seattle almost a decade ago when baseball was the least-favorite professional sport in the Northwest.
Now, they've named a street and an award after him.
From now on, anyone walking up to the ticket windows on the south side of Safeco Field will be walking alongside "Edgar Martinez Drive" and the American League Designated Hitter of the Year Award would now be called "The Edgar Martinez Award."
Commissioner Bud Selig, who attended the game and postgame festivities, announced the name change for an award that was established in 1979 and awarded to Martinez five times (1995-2001).
"That got me by surprise," Edgar said. "I had no idea that was coming, no clue. To have something like that is great. It is just a great thing to have in the future and I'm proud of it."
He said he was so touched by Selig's announcement that, "Right after I heard it, I started crying."
A capacity crowd of 45,617 watched the Mariners lose a 10-4 decision to the Rangers, but the one-sided loss didn't spoil the party they came to watch. They stayed around afterward to salute perhaps the greatest all-around hitter in franchise history, and definitely one of the nicest players to wear a Mariners uniform.
They even watched Edgar start an inning at third base.
He replaced Jolbert Cabrera to start the ninth inning, but one pitch into the inning, he was replaced by Willie Bloomquist. Some of the fans wanted him to stay on the field, but it was the first time since July 2, 1997 that he had played the position, and manager Bob Melvin wanted to give the fans another chance to show their appreciation for what he has meant.
The inning featured two standing ovations and a two-minute "Ed-Gar" chant.
He said going to the position that he broke into Majors, "felt strange. It felt like a mile away. I just felt strange being there. I knew it would be for one pitch. I didn't think I should stay there too long."
Martinez said Melvin told him that he would stay in for one pitch and it wouldn't be close to the strike zone "so they would hit it."
It was a memorable celebration for an unforgettable player.
"The respect he gets around the league is as much as anyone I have ever seen," Melvin said. "You never hear anyone say a bad word about Edgar Martinez, and in this game, that is almost impossible."
Selig headed a list of dignitaries and former teammates who participated in a postgame ceremony that chronicled a career that started with a tryout in Dorado, Puerto Rico in 1982, and just might end at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"He's the greatest DH since the rule was put in," Selig said when asked if Martinez is a Hall of famer. "That's the easy part of it and I'll let the writers decide whether he is a Hall of Famer."
Marty Martinez, a former Mariners scout, first base coach and manager (for one game), attended Saturday night's festivities and recalled the day Edgar (no relation) had the tryout.
"He was a third baseman at the time and had great hands," Marty said. "I honestly thought at the time that he would be a great second baseman. That shows how much I know."
Marty had a hunch that Edgar would reach the Major Leagues.
"He was a good hitter, not a power hitter, and handled the bat well."
But the Mariners' offer of $5,000 didn't impress Edgar.
"I went home and talked it over with my grandparents," he said. "They told me it was my decision. I wasn't going to take it, but my cousin, Carmelo [Martinez] told me he thought I could make it."
Carmelo was a player in the Cubs' minor league system.
Edgar decided to accept the offer and the rest is a big part of Mariners history.
He entered his 16th MLB season with a .315 career batting average, 297 home runs and 1,198 RBIs and ends his career Sunday afternoon owning virtually every offensive club record in the books, and a slew of DH marks as well.
"It has been very frustrating not to be able to compete at the same level," he said.
Melvin has the distinction of being the only person to have managed Martinez and played against him.
"To be on this side, I have even more respect for him," Melvin said.
"All of the baseball accolades aside, this is one of the finest human beings I have ever been around and it shows up in the clubhouse. When you have Edgar in there, guys toe the line."
Melvin recalled a time last season when he was having some difficulty with a certain player and asked Edgar for some assistance.
"I had no trouble with the guy again. Edgar is quiet, but when he talks, everyone is listening very hard."
More than 45,000 stayed after the 10-3 Seattle loss to watch the post-game ceremony. With "E-D-G-A-R" written in the dirt behind second base, and a special logo behind home plate "EDGAR, 1987-2004", he thanked those most responsible for his career, one that ended without a World Series ring.
"There are some great players who have played and produced a lot and never played in a World Series," he said. "Not that it makes me feel better, but you realize that it can happen."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.