On July 21, 2019, Edgar Martinez of the Seattle Mariners is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For Martinez and his legions of fans, it comes as the culmination of years anticipation and frustration. Each of the previous nine years, Martinez had come up short of the required 75 percent of the vote, yet on his 10th and final chance he is swept into the Hall with 85.4 percent. The Seattle Times sums up the reaction throughout the Northwest with a one-word headline: "Hallelujah!" Throngs of Northwest fans attend the induction celebration in Cooperstown, New York. Martinez delivers a speech in which he says, "Thank you, Mariner fans. You are the best fans I could ever hope for. I am so glad that I stayed with you till the end of my career" ("Famously Edgar").
Road to Cooperstown
When Edgar Martinez retired at the end of the 2004 season, his place was secure as one of the most beloved players in Mariners history. Yet his prospects for making the Hall of Fame were uncertain, despite his stellar career achievements, which included two American League batting titles, five Silver Slugger Awards as the best offensive player at his position, and seven All-Star selections. Martinez ended his career with a lifetime .312 batting average. Martinez had also won the award for baseball's best designated hitter so many times (five) that it had been renamed the Edgar Martinez Award.
Still questions remained. His bid was hampered partly by the fact that he had made a relatively late start, at age 27, as a full-time major leaguer. His long stint in the minors deprived him of what would surely have been hundreds of career major league hits -- in the minors, he had accumulated 697. Mostly, it was hampered by a prejudice against designated hitters, who some voters apparently considered less-than-complete players. This, despite the fact that Martinez had been a fine defensive player for his first five years, and he had earned the first of his two batting titles while a full-time third baseman.
When Martinez first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2010, he received votes on only 36 percent of the ballots. A few years later, that percentage would drop all the way to 25 percent. However, in 2018, it shot up to 70 percent, agonizingly close to the 75 percent requirement. The increase was partly because voters were aware that time was running out. Edgar's eligibility was slated to end in 2019.
It may also have been because his on-field peers had been uncommonly vocal. Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez (no relation) called Edgar Martinez, "the toughest guy I faced" (Cotterill). Hall of Famer Cal Rikpen Jr. said, "Edgar, we'll be there with you when that door opens as your name echoes throughout the Hall" (Cotterill). Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson, a former Seattle teammate, said, "Edgar Martinez is, hands down, the best hitter that I've ever seen. And I hope that his time comes soon, that he gets a phone call stating that he's a Hall of Fame player, because he is" (Cotterill). When former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. gave his own Hall of Fame induction speech in 2016, he invoked Edgar's name and said, "Yes, he does belong in the Hall of Fame" (Cotterill).
For all of those reasons, optimism abounded on January 22, 2019, when the results were announced for his 10th and final chance. He and his family were in a hotel room in New York, celebrating daughter Tessa's 17th birthday. Edgar's cell phone rang and the long-awaited words were spoken. He was in. Tears were shed by friends and family, and not just in that hotel room. His wife Holli said "two vastly different places in the world were celebrating" – Dorado, Puerto Rico, where he grew up, and Seattle, where he now lived ("Edgar Keeps Cool"). Martinez himself received the news calmly, showing the same even temperament he formerly demonstrated during stressful at-bats.
Weeks later, when he returned to Seattle and walked into Mariners headquarters, his face betrayed his feelings. His face "turned the color of the red carpet," as he was "genuinely stunned" at the deep outpouring of emotion and gratitude from the gathered Mariners employees ("Warm Welcome").
A few months later, thousands of Mariner fans made the long trek to Cooperstown to attend the ceremony and to renew the long-familiar chants of "Edd-gar, Edd-gar!" Seattle Times sportswriter Ryan Divish noted that "everything about his speech reminded you of how he was as a player -- the understated humility and selfless nature permeated throughout" ("Famously Edgar"). He began by thanking his beloved Puerto Rico for providing him a sanctuary while growing up. Then he acknowledged a long list of friends, relations and teammates. Finally, he closed his speech with this:
"Seattle fans, thank you for always being there for me. Since 1987, you gave me your unconditional support. And it was even more prevalent in these last 10 years. … This is a day I never could have imagined happening when I was growing up in Puerto Rico. And honestly, there were times over the last 10 years I wasn't sure it was going to happen. So thank you once again for everyone along the way to help make this dream come true. I am so grateful and proud" ("Famously Edgar").