Pedro Martinez never felt worse than the moment in the 2003 ALCS when he threw New York Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground during a dugout-clearing brawl.
It’s the “only blemish I would love to erase from my career,” he said in a recent interview on an episode of Bleacher Report’s “Untold Stories.”
“There hasn’t been any other moment where I felt worse in my life — I will tell you, in my life — than that moment,” Martinez said. “And that moment led to a lot more.”
In one of his most detailed tellings of the altercation, the Baseball Hall of Famer revealed he joined the brawl later than everyone else. He’d used the bathroom between the top and bottom of the fourth inning — the top of the fourth being the frame when he threw behind Yankees right fielder Karim Garcia and unlocked the chain reaction of events that led to the eventual brawl.
“When I came out, the brawl was already (happening) because I’m zipping up my pants quickly, I’m trying to get to see what’s going on,” Martinez said. “And that’s when I hear the mumbling kind of behind me. And I see Zimmer rushing towards me and I’m like, ‘What?’”
When Zimmer reached Martinez, the longtime Yankees coach told Martinez words that he said he “didn’t expect” from Zimmer. Martinez then added that when Zimmer tried to “jab” at him, he “pulled it” and that’s what caused Zimmer to end up on the ground.
From Martinez’s perspective, he threw the ball behind Garcia because he was dragging, tired and aching. He tried to throw a fastball high and inside, but it ended up diverting behind Garcia instead of finishing where it was supposed to. That led to Garcia trying to take Boston’s second baseman out during a double-play attempt.
‘What are you thinking?” Martinez said he told Garcia after the double-play sequence. “This is a 3-2 game … who wants to hit you? You crazy? Clean it up.’”
Martinez finished the inning, but the benches cleared once the Red Sox started their next round of at-bats and Roger Clemens threw at Manny Ramirez.
Eighteen years later, Boston opens its ALCS on Friday night against the Houston Astros, the organization’s sixth championship series appearance since the one in 2003 that grew to define the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees — with the brawl and the extension of Boston’s World Series drought that it ultimately snapped the following season.