Edgar Martinez was born in New York City in 1963.
At 2 years old, his parents got divorced and sent him to Puerto Rico to live with his grandparents.
That’s where his passion for baseball began.
In 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series, led by Puerto Rican legend Roberto Clemente.
In his own words, Edgar was “hooked on baseball after that”.
His grandfather bought him his first uniform – number 21, after Clemente – with his own name stitched on the back.
Martinez played in the yard with his cousins, hitting bottlecaps with broomsticks to learn the game.
“When it would rain, Edgar would go outside and swing at the raindrops,” said his cousin, Carlos.
“He would do it for hours.”
Edgar didn’t receive much attention from scouts. They liked his glove but felt he was too weak of a hitter.
He also battled a lazy eye, which required extra training to make up for it.
Edgar would write numbers on tennis balls, have a friend feed them into a pitching machine, and try to identify the number as the balls sailed by him at home plate.
After a few failed tryouts, he enrolled at a local university to prepare himself for the working world.
“At that point, I sort of lost hope of signing.”
By age 20, Edgar’s schedule was jam-packed.
6:00 pm – 10:00 pm: College classes
10:00 pm – 7:00 am: Night shift at the General Electric factory
When he got home, he’d sleep a few hours and then practice baseball.
He played in a semi-pro league on weekends – trying to keep the game in his life.
One morning, Edgar arrived home from a night shift.
The GM of his semi-pro team was outside waiting for him.
“The Mariners are having a tryout,” he told Edgar. “Get ready, I’m going to take you there.”
“Pick up your stuff, let’s go.”
So after an 8-hour night shift, Edgar hopped in the car to go to the 8 am tryout.
He recalls being “so tired I couldn’t swing the bat.”
Running on fumes, he flashed enough potential to get a chance.
A few days later, Edgar signed with the Mariners for $4,000.
In his first minor league season, Martinez hit .177.
Battling culture shock, the adjustment took time.
“I could only speak a few words of English, just enough to order in a restaurant.”
But he kept working – learning English and getting more pro at-bats – and things improved.
Ultimately, Martinez didn’t play his first full MLB season until age 27.
Yet he managed to post eye-popping career numbers through his final season at 41 years old:
- .933 OPS
- 309 HRs
- 1,261 RBIs
In an average season, Edgar hit .312 and drove in 99 runs.
Fast forward to 2019:
Edgar’s 10th and final year on the Hall of Fame ballot.
One last shot at baseball’s highest honor.
“It started out as a normal day,” Edgar told the Seattle Times. “…I tried to distract myself as much as possible.”
Then, just before 6 pm, his phone rang.
In his final year of eligibility, Edgar Martinez was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Like everything else in his career, he had to fight to earn it.
Legendary broadcaster Dave Niehaus said it best:
“I’ve never heard anybody in any walk of life say anything ever halfway bad about Edgar Martinez…He has always had nice things to say about everyone, even in trying circumstances.”
“He’s a great human being.”
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