Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dennis Martinez Autographed Card

Dennis Martinez' nickname was 'El Presidente' for a while, until July 28th, 1991, when he pitched a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a special game for many reasons: two days earlier, Mark Gardner was throwing a no-hitter until he surrendered one in the tenth inning, meaning the Montréal Expos could have been the first team to throw a no-hitter and a perfect game in the same series; also, 'El Perfecto' was the first non-American to register a perfect game, and his adversary, Mike Morgan, was also perfect through the first five innings, the longest the opponent of a perfect pitcher matched his counterpart; finally, it was the second time catcher Ron Hassey was on the receiving end of a perfect game, having previously been behind the plate for Len Barker's.

It was the 13th perfect game of all time, and the 11th of the modern era.

But Martinez was more than a one-trick pony: he finished in the top-5 in Cy Young voting twice, in the top-25 twice in MVP voting, and participated in 4 All-Star Games. He led his league in complete games twice (9 in 1991, and a whopping 18 in 1979 with the Baltimore Orioles); he finished his career with 30 shutouts, including a league-leading 5 in 1991, when he also led with a 2.39 ERA. He finished in the top-10 in wins 5 times.

Until a skinny kid with the same last name a few years later (Pedro Martinez), I had never seen that dominant a pitcher up-close (I'd seen Dennis Eckersley and Greg Maddux on TV, though) - and because I haven't watched a baseball game in over 15 years, I haven't seen as dominant a display as his perfect game, ever - and that includes all the Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens highlights.

So when he signed this card for me in 1993, you can bet I was the happiest kid in the Olympic Stadium:


It's from Topps' 1993 Topps set (card #610) and was signed in fading blue sharpie. It shows him in the Expos' grey (away) uniform they instilled in 1992 - he'd previously starred and been perfect in their powder-blue uniform.

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