Former Mariners Designated Hitter Edgar Martinez looks back to 1995
(As told to Jim Street)
Edgar Martinez, one of the most productive and popular players in franchise history, spent his entire MLB career with the Mariners. Along the way he became the best designated hitter in MLB history, prompting baseball commissioner Bud Selig to rename the AL Designated Hitter of the Year Award in Edgar’s name. Remembered most for his game-winning double against the Yankees in Game 5 of the 1995 AL Division Series at the Kingdome, Martinez had many memorable at-bats and games for the Mariners, the most memorable occurring on Oct. 7, 1997.
It’s funny, but when I talk to fans about my career, most people talk about Game 5 of the ’95 playoffs against the Yankees. When the conversation goes to that series, it mostly is about Game 5 and the double. They don’t even mention Game 4. Very few people remember that I hit two home runs and drove in seven runs.
But I consider Game 4 a huge accomplishment in my career, and my most memorable game. It was the most production I ever had in a single game — a three-run home run and a grand slam.
Even after we lost the first two games of the (best-of-five) series in New York, the mood of the team was positive. There was never any talk about losing. We talked about how we were going to come back and win one game at a time. It helped that we had a rested Randy (Johnson) pitching Game 3 at home.
Randy beat the Yankees, just as we expected, and our confidence was high going into Game 4. We were very confident going into that game. I remember that we fell behind by three runs in the first inning and the Yankees scored two more (in the third) to put us behind by five runs.
On other teams I played on, when things went bad it seemed like everyone concentrated on what went wrong. But this team was different. I think because we played so well in September that year that even when we were losing, we were confident about winning the game. We came back in so many of the games that we never thought we were out of it, even if we were three or four runs behind in the ninth inning.
As a team we had the confidence that would come back and win. So even when we were behind 5-0, everyone in the dugout was talking positive about the game, expecting us to come back and win.
The pitcher was (Scott) Kamieniecki, a right-hander. He threw a good breaking ball to me in the first inning that I took for ball four. So I saw a lot of pitches in that at-bat, which helped me later on in the game.
When we faced New York during the season, they usually pitched me away, rarely coming inside. When they did come inside, it was not in the strike zone, but way inside to back me away from the plate.
The second time I faced Kamieniecki in Game 4 was in the third inning. Joey and Junior were on base with nobody out. Kamieniecki had a good sinker, with good movement down, and they were looking for a double play in that situation He threw me a sinker, hoping to get it down and in on me. It wasn’t as far inside as he wanted it and I was able to pull the ball to left field. Even though I didn’t hit it that well, it was hit well enough to carry down the left field line and just barely went out for a three-run homer. We scored another run and now it’s a one-run game.
We went ahead (6-5) but they came back to tie it up in the eighth on a wild pitch by Norm (Charlton).
So now we go to the bottom of the inning and (John) Wetteland comes in to pitch for the Yankees. I don’t how much success I had had against him in the past, but I knew he threw hard and was going to throw me fastballs middle away because that’s the way he always pitched to me. He had a good curveball, but his No. 1 pitch was his fastball.
We loaded the bases with nobody out so I’m feeling pretty good. As hard as Wetteland threw, in that situation I told myself to look for a fastball, just make solid contact and hit the ball somewhere in the air so I at least drive in the go-ahead run. When I think that way I don’t over-swing. When I over-swing is when I miss more pitches.
I don’t know how many times I had faced Wetteland before, but I could see the ball good coming out of his hand. He was over the top and the ball was pretty straight.
He threw me a fastball that was middle away and I was able to get good enough contact to hit the ball to center field. At first when I hit it, I didn’t know if I was going to have enough to go over the fence. But the ball was travelling more than usual that day because there were so many people in the stadium and it was really warm inside the Kingdome. The ball just kept going. I knew it was deep enough to score Joey from third and thought it might have a chance to hit off the wall.
As I went around first base, I saw the Bernie slowing down. I was really surprised that the ball went out. After watching it go out, I raised my right arm in celebration, something I didn’t do very often, if at all. It was just an in-the-moment kind of thing. It was a big at-bat for us and I knew how important it was to the game. I was celebrating after I saw the ball go over the fence. I came through with a homer and didn’t even think about it (the reaction). It was a reaction, but for the most part, I try to keep my emotions in check. But in this situation, it was a big at-bat and I knew it was a really big hit, giving us a good chance to even up the series.
I couldn’t help but notice the celebration. That was about the loudest I had ever heard. It got very loud in the stadium. That series was very loud, but after that at-bat it got really, really loud. It was fun, one of the most fun moments of my career and the team. How can I say it? It was so hectic in there after the home run that I can’t remember a lot of the things going on. I have seen clips of Lou and Lee (Elia) high-fiving each other. It was a big celebration. I think that’s the biggest home run of my career. The double I hit to win the series the next day was big, but the grand slam probably was by far the biggest hit of my career.
(Jim Street covered the Mariners for the Seattle P-I from 1986-98, and MLB.com from 2001-10) This article first appeared in Mariners Magazine.)