Dennis Martinez had a remarkable major league career. Making his first appearance as a Baltimore Oriole in 1976, he also pitched for the Montreal Expos, the Cleveland Indians, the Seattle Mariners, and the Atlanta Braves, where he ended his career in 1998. But it was not until recently that I put 2 and 2 together, because Martinez served up two rather big home run pitches to two Yankees who both wore #2.
On August 6, 1979, Martinez started against the defending World Champion New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium. It was clear that 1979 would be the Orioles’ year, and they had won the first three games of the series against the Yankees. That may be in part because the minds of the Yankees, and certainly their hearts and souls, were elsewhere. For it was on August 2 that Thurman Munson died in a plane crash at Canton, Ohio. Four days later the Yankees returned from Munson’s funeral to confront Martinez and the O’s.
The Orioles took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh, when both Bucky Dent and Willie Randolph reached base with two out. Martinez then faced #2, Bobby Murcer, who was commencing his second stint with the Yankees. having returned to the team as the result of a trade with the Chicago Cubs that June. Murcer had struggled in his return in pinstripes: earlier that day he had delivered one of the eulogies at Munson’s funeral. That evening he was hitless in three at bats. To see what happened next, go to the 1:50 mark of the video below for the entire at bat, or 1:51 for the pitch and swing in question:
Murcer would cap the comeback performance by driving in Dent and Randolph in the ninth inning with an opposite-field single against Tippy Martinez.
Fast forward to Opening Day, 1996. With the Indians as defending American League champs, Martinez took the mound to face the Yankees. At shortstop for the Yankees (Murcer’s original position, by the way) was a young man named Derek Jeter, wearing #2. Here’s what happened when Martinez faced Jeter that afternoon.
That was the rookie’s first major league home run. Holy Cow indeed. I miss Phil Rizzuto.
Two home runs, each by #2, their first home run for the Yankees that season … all courtesy of El Presidente. Not that Martinez had a bad career. Nicaragua’s first major leaguer, he won 100 games in each league and pitched a perfect game while with Montreal in 1991. But for Yankee fans, these are his most memorable moments.