Sunday, May 17, 2015

RSM Book Review: "Pedro"

Pedro is a recently released (May 5) autobiography of Pedro Martinez, written along with Boston Herald baseball writer, Michael Silverman.

The book is very well written, and a great read (I finished it just three evenings).  Page after page, Pedro's intensity, joy for life, and love of baseball shines through.

The book begins by painting the picture of Pedro's childhood in the Dominican Republic.  Their family was poor, but not extremely so for their area.  Pedro even gives an explanation of what he meant by "sitting under the mango tree".

His road towards a professional baseball career really accelerates when his older brother, Ramon, signs with the Dodgers.  Pedro, who is six years Ramon's junior, eventually gravitates to an academy run by the Dodgers there in the Dominican Republic.

There is talk because of Pedro's small stature that he is only given his chance due to being Ramon's little brother.  Pedro actually overhears a room full of Dodger coaches and scouts discussing sending him home and ending his dream before it begins.  But the academy pitching coach, Eleodoro Arias, tells the room he feels Pedro has the "heart of a lion".  Pedro stays and signs with LA.

His journey in pro baseball in the States begins in Great Falls, Montana and he progresses rather quickly to the Dodgers.  He has what I would call a love/hate relationship with the Dodgers, who use Pedro almost exclusively in the bullpen.  He feels the Dodger organization is "disrespectful" to him.  Disrespect is a constant theme throughout the book, and is obviously the fuel that drives Pedro's career.

Pedro is crushed when traded to Montreal, and says, "the Dodgers turned their backs on me, which is why to this day, my back is turned to them".

But Montreal is where Pedro blossoms (speaking of blossoms, Pedro also discusses his love of flowers, instilled by his mother in his childhood) and he learns to love the city of Montreal.  His Expo years are capped by winning the 1997 NL Cy Young Award, but then he is traded again.  Pedro was initially unhappy again.  Expo GM Jim Beattie tells his Cy Young winner he has been dealt to Boston, and "Boston is a great city for you, Pedro".  Martinez hangs up on him.

But Boston GM Dan Duquette (a former Expo GM) has now traded for Pedro twice and quickly puts together a long term deal to make Pedro the highest paid pitcher in baseball.  His Boston career begins.

One thing that sets this book apart from the standard sports autobiography/memoir is Pedro, as he was on the mound,  is not the least bit bashful about giving an unvarnished opinion or story about other players or people within the game.  The Boston section of the book goes in the Yankee rivalry, the Don Zimmer incident (and the HBP that sparked it), the Boston media, his arm issues, the Boston fans, contract issues, whether or not he threw at hitters intentionally (and if so what % of the time), and his Boston managers (Pedro greets both Grady Little and Tito Francona to the clubhouse as new managers with exact same salute).  He also point blank tells the reader who he blames for the 2003 ALCS Game Seven debacle.

Of course there are plenty of recollections of the magical 2004 season.  Pedro confirms that the Kevin Millar idea of taking shots of Jack Daniels in the clubhouse during the '04 post season comeback did occur.  But according to Pedro, a much more exotic concoction was also consumed.  It was called Mama Juana, and it was put together by Manny Ramirez.  You have to read it to believe it.

Among the players Pedro dusts off with his literary fastball up and in are:

Mike Piazza
Will Clark
Reggie Sanders
Don Baylor
Luis Gonzalez
Joe Kerrigan (hint: Pedro does not like the least)
Curt Schilling (as an opponent and later as a teammate)
Mike Stanley
John Flaherty  ("a guy who couldn't hit")
Gerald Williams
Mike Lansing
Karim Garcia  ("who is Karim Garcia?")
Jorge Posada
Tim McCarver
Nomar ("a class act")

There is a lot on Manny Ramirez.

And there are others, including hitters who wear "pussy pads" on their elbows. Also Pedro talks at length about the baseball writers whose controversial votes cost him the 1999 AL MVP, and maybe another CY Young or two along the way.

There is an extensive section on the contract talks when Pedro was free agent in the winter of '04 and how he decided to leave Boston.  His return to the NL and the Mets and Phillies years conclude the playing career portion of the book.

Near the end of the book Pedro discusses being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in this year's class.  He is "elated and humbled".

I highly recommend this book for any baseball fan, but of course to Red Sox fans especially.  You will enjoy the ride nearly as much as experiencing a Pedro start at Fenway Park in his heyday.

1 comment:

  1. I like it - a book review added to the various modes of writing on! Well done, Art. The book sounds great. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Between the Mama Juana and the pussy pads, it sounds like it will be a hell of a read!