32 years ago, Edgar Martinez fulfilled the prophecies and signed with the Mariners
32 years ago, Edgar Martinez signed with the Mariners
And lo, it had been foretold in the stars that there would come a man with a perfect swing and the ability to hit everything. Ancient tomes and dark grimoires wrote of a man, more of a demi-god really, who would one day walk the Earth with thick brown curls and a bat carved out of the world tree, Yggdrasil. And he would forever alter the future of baseball.
Though the Mariners didn't realize it at the time, they set these prophecies in motion when they signed Edgar Martinez on Dec. 19, 1982. What the prophecies failed to mention was his sweet 'stache, though:
Not that there wouldn't be challenges along the way. Just as Joseph Campbell noted in his books on mythic structure, Martinez would have to overcome many challenges on his hero's journey. For while he possessed a golden swing, the then-third baseman had been gifted with a glove made of iron. (He committed 78 errors in only 535 career Major League games at third base.)
Because of this, Martinez was left to battle something harder and more difficult than any troll or terrifying three-headed dog: he toiled on a thousand long and bumpy bus rides through the Minor Leagues.
Despite hitting .300/.412/.439 in the Minors, including batting averages of .329, .363 and .345 in his final three seasons in Triple-A, Martinez was never given a full-time Major League job until 1990 when he was 27.
Once he was called up by the Mariners, he didn't stop hitting. In his first full big league season, the future DH hit .302/.397/.433.
Brandishing his bat like it was The Sword of Truth and Beauty, Martinez would go on to win two batting titles and lead the league in runs and RBIs once, doubles twice, OBP three times and be elected to seven All-Star Games. Not only is the award for the best DH in the game named after Martinez, but he won his own award five times.
For his career, Martinez hit 309 HR with a .312/.418/.515 batting line. Only 19 other players in Major League history have achieved the holy triumverate of a .300/.400/.500 batting line, the list dominated with Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Hank Greenberg and many-time All-Stars like Manny Ramirez and Albert Pujols.
As Mariano Rivera, arguably the greatest reliever in the history of the game, said:
But Martinez's greatest feat, one that ranks with Hercules' 12 labors and Breaking Bad's fifth season, was performed in '95. That season, the slugging DH didn't just lead the league in runs (121), doubles (52), average (.356), and on-base percentage (.479), but he saved baseball in the city of Seattle.
With the Mariners trailing the Angels by 12.5 games on August 15th, the M's came back to tie the Angels for the division title, before beating them, 9-1, in a one-game tiebreaker. Over those last 45 games, Martinez hit .350/.459/.644 with 11 HR.
After the Yankees took a 2-0 series lead in the best-of-five Division Series, things looked bleak. But just like Beowulf's battle with Grendel, Martinez and the M's hacked their way back. In Game 5, the Mariners came back from a 4-2 deficit to tie the game in the eighth inning and force extra innings.
In the bottom of the 11th, Martinez came up with two runners on and the M's trailing 5-4. Lifting his battle axe high above his head, Martinez dug in. Sweat and blood (probably) dripped from his body. The pitch, thrown with the power of actual lightning, came flying in. And like he did 514 times in his career, Martinez laced a double.
Because all mythic heroes require an epic poet to narrate their works, Martinez's hit was called by Dave Niehaus:
Even more impressive? The hit has its very own Wikipedia page.
The great warrior Martinez retired in 2004 and is currently eligible to be elected to baseball's Cooperstown Valhalla. But should the baseball universe ever be in danger and in need of a hitter whose swing can split an atom, Martinez will be ready to wage cosmic battle once again.