Dan Shaughnessy

A night at the theater

Script is perfect with Martinez in this off-Broadway production

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / November 4, 2009

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Six years later, he is back in new Yankee Stadium, still pitching for the honor of Red Sox Nation.

Pedro Martinez gets the ball in Game 6 tonight of the World Series, and he is the only thing standing between the Evil Empire and its 27th world championship.

In his role as Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher, Pedro knows he is carrying the colors for Sox fans around the world - just as he did in 2003 when Grady Little left him on the mound too long in the ancient ballpark across the street.

Yesterday Pedro was reminded that every thinking Sox fan is rooting against the Yankees.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all,’’ said a smiling Martinez. “I know they don’t like the Yankees to win, not even in Nintendo games. And knowing that I am part of Boston, I consider myself a Bostonian . . . I’m pretty sure that every Boston fan out there can feel proud that I’m going to try to beat the Yankees, and I’m going to give just the same effort I always did for them. They’re special fans, and they will always have my respect.’’

Great stuff.

No one likes the spotlight more than Pedro. That’s why tonight’s game is one of the great sporting events of the year. It’s must-see TV.

Pedro has the perfect temperament for this stage. He is a diva’s diva. He wants the ball at the end of the game. He makes Diana Ross look like a humble Pip.

At 180 pounds, Pedro is bigger than Aretha Franklin. He’s Maria Callas, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion. His heart will go on. He is a prime-time performer with a Bill O’Reilly ego. He was born to pitch in the big games and it’s hard to find one bigger than tonight at The House That Jeter Built.

Just a few months after his apparent retirement under a mango tree in the Dominican Republic, the little guy with the giant chip on his shoulder gets the ball in a potential clinch game for the Yankees. Which makes for great theater. The moneybags Yanks are on the cusp of their first championship since 2000, and only Pedro can stop them.

Feeding the tabloid beasts, Pedro has been an absolute quote machine in this Fall Classic. Last week in New York he said, “If I was on the Yankees, I’d probably be like a king over here.’’ He also said, “I might be the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium.’’

Good one. Forget about Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and even Jackie Robinson. In his own mind, Pedro takes the cake. Every time. That’s why we can’t wait for him to take the mound in the bottom of the first.

The 2009 World Series is easily the best since 2001 (how great was Johnny Damon’s double steal in Game 4?), and the re-emergence of Pedro as a major player brings dessert to the hardball feast. It’s as if Elvis was scheduled to appear on stage with Springsteen and Clapton at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction. Pedro is back and he’s more important than ever.

The little fella pitched pretty well (six innings, six hits, three runs, two walks, eight strikeouts) while taking the loss in Game 2 last week at Yankee Stadium. When he was lifted in the seventh, he walked off the mound slowly and smiled softly while the crowd’s taunts washed over him.

Pedro is a proud man who remembers every slight. He is a counter. He equates respect with dollars. Martinez never forgave Jimy Williams for replacing him in a Saturday start after Pedro sauntered into Fenway a few minutes before he was scheduled to throw the first pitch. Pedro was insanely jealous of Curt Schilling when the Big Blowhard came into the Sox clubhouse with his “new sheriff in town’’ bluster in 2004.

Pedro won the third game of the 2004 World Series (seven innings, no runs, three hits) in St. Louis and is looking to close the book on his October résumé with another Series win tonight. Don’t bet against him. The Yankee lineup scares most righty pitchers, especially in the Bronx, but Pedro can neutralize the Bombers with his smarts and location.

Mark Teixeira tossed some bouquets at Pedro during yesterday’s off day at the Stadium.

“You’re not going to outthink Pedro,’’ said the struggling switch hitter. “He’s one of the smartest pitchers in baseball.’’

The Yankees were Pedro’s daddy when Grady left him on the mound too long in 2003. Tonight Pedro has a chance to make everything right. All these years later, he’s still pitching for the Red Sox.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

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