Fifteen years ago, we watched as Mariners franchise legend Edgar Martinez played his final regular season game, wrapping up an illustrious 18-year career with his trademark class and remarkable skill.
Nine years ago, when ‘Gar debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot, we waited anxiously for news, only to find that just 36.2% of voters thought that our franchise icon was worthy of the greatest honor in baseball.
We saw his support dwindle over the years, dropping to a low of 27.0% as recently as 2015. And when the Hall of Fame changed its rules by limiting players to 10 years on the ballot, many figured that was a death knell for Edgar’s chances of being enshrined in Cooperstown.
But years of advocacy by baseball writers all across the nation began to pay off. From beat reporters like Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, to statistically-inclined writers like Jay Jaffe, to the advocacy from the Mariners PR team and the remarkable #EdgarHOF series published by our own Kate Preusser, baseball writers slowly but surely came around.
And finally, earlier today, what was once thought impossible became a beautiful reality: Edgar Martinez is a Hall of Famer.
With 85.4% of the voters checking off his name, Edgar cleared the 75% threshold with ease, and come Sunday, July 21, the city of Seattle will stand still at 10:30am PT, with cheers of Ed-garrrrrr reverberating throughout every nook and cranny of Mariners fandom.
He’ll be joined by three others: longtime Yankees closer Mariano Rivera (inducted with 100% of the vote), the late great Roy Halladay (85.4%), and Orioles/Yankees starter Mike Mussina (76.7%). Rivera has famously said that Martinez was the best hitter he ever faced, so it’s only fitting that the two will share the stage this summer as they are inducted into the pantheon of baseball greats.
Edgar’s accomplishments are too numerous to name. Despite not having a full-time spot in the lineup until his age-27 season, the greatest designated hitter in baseball history finished with 2,247 hits, 514 doubles, and 309 homers. He won two batting titles, one in 1992 and one in the unforgettable 1995 season, where he combined a .356 average with an unthinkable .479 on-base percentage, a league-best 52 doubles, and a wRC+ of 182.
Another way of looking at his greatness, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:
You've heard of the .300/.400/.500 club, but Edgar Martinez is one of 15 members of the .310/.410/.510 club. The only member of that club that retired before Edgar and isn't in the HoF is Shoeless Joe https://t.co/RpBCYZmR0k pic.twitter.com/Pp58Rj3Gpx— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) January 24, 2018
The Mariners legend struck fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. Just ask (now fellow!) Hall of Famers like Pedro Martínez:
The toughest guy I faced I think -- with all due respect to all the players in the league -- was Edgar Martinez. He had to make me throw at least 13 fastballs above 95 (each time we faced). I was hard-breathing after that. Edgar was a guy that had the ability to foul off pitches, and it pissed me off because I couldn’t get the guy out.
...or Randy Johnson:
Edgar Martinez is, hands down, the best hitter that I’ve ever seen. I’m glad I didn’t have to face him too much. Having seen him play from ’89 to all the way when I left, I got to see him a lot against great pitchers. Like I said, hands down, he is the best pure hitter that I got to see on a nightly basis.
...or fellow 2019 inductee Rivera:
The toughest – and thank God he retired – (former Mariners DH) Edgar Martinez. Oh my God. I think every pitcher will say that, because this man was tough. Great man, though – respected the game, did what he had to do for his team. That’s what you appreciate about players, when a player come and do what is right for the game of baseball, for his team and teammates.
Martinez’s qualities as a hitter are undeniably legendary. From his trademark stance — compact, hands high above his head, bat cocked — to his statistical prowess, few players have hit at such a high level for such a long time.
But that’s not what Mariners fans remember when they think of Edgar. As a franchise icon, there are highlights aplenty to choose from. Perhaps you best remember his first home run, when a skinny, mustachioed third baseman unloaded off of Baltimore’s Jeff Ballard in 1989.
Maybe you’re partial to his final hit, a trademark line drive to center in his last game, or when he beat up on then-starter Rivera almost a decade and a half ago.
But I’m guessing your fondest memories are either this grand slam...
...or the hit so famous in Seattle lore that it’s simply known as The Double:
I may have been just two years old when that famous line drive found its way into the left field corner, but that single hit has impacted my life in so many ways. I’ve followed this team for as long as I can remember. I’ve made lifelong friends and shared indelible memories. I’ve found communities that I’ll cherish for years and years to come. All of that was made possible because of the Mariners, and because of that 1995 run. All of that was made possible because of Edgar.
So: thank you, Edgar. You’ve touched my life. You’ve touched all of our lives. See you in July.
And welcome to the Hall of Fame.