Red Sox

Morning sports update: Pedro Martinez explained how his ‘alien’ flexibility helped him become a dominant pitcher

"No, I am not an alien," Martinez joked. "Or am I?"

Pedro Martinez pitching against the Yankees in the 1999 ALCS. Globe Archives

The Bruins defeated the Penguins 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday. Craig Smith scored the winner for Boston.

The Pride were not as fortunate, falling 2-1 to Toronto in the NWHL Lake Placid bubble.

Tonight, the Celtics face the Spurs at 8:30 p.m.

And in baseball, former Red Sox pitchers Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling fell short in Hall of Fame voting:

Pedro Martinez’s “alien” fingers: During his Hall of Fame career, former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez was known for having multiple pitches that were regarded as some of the best in baseball.

On top of his intelligence and intimidation tactics, Martinez credits his finger flexibility to explain his historic level of dominance in his prime years with Boston.


In a recent tweet, the now-Red Sox special assistant explained how it helped him.

“Flexibility my friends,” said Martinez. “My fingers were so flexible they stayed in contact with the ball quite a bit longer, so I could put more spin on the ball.”

“No, I am not an alien,” Martinez joked. “Or am I?”

Here’s Martinez adding some more about his pitch grips in a segment from 2020:

Trivia: When Pedro Martinez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, he entered with fellow pitchers Randy Johnson and John Smoltz. What position player — who played all 20 seasons of his career with the same team — entered with them?


(Answer at the bottom).

Hint: He was a hit-by-pitch leader five times, finishing second all time in the statistic with 285.

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An Isaiah Thomas update:

On this day: In 1991, the Giants defeated the Bills in Super Bowl XXV, 20-19. On top of being notable for Whitney Houston’s famous rendition of the national anthem, it remains the only Super Bowl ever decided by just a single point, and was (for many NFL fans) the first glimpse of Bill Belichick’s coaching ability on football’s biggest stage.

Though Belichick had been the Giants’ defensive coordinator in the team’s Super Bowl XXI win, it was four years later that the then-assistant crafted a true masterpiece.


New York, with head coach Bill Parcells and a staff alongside Belichick that included Tom Coughlin, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, and Al Groh (among others), won the NFC Championship despite losing starting quarterback Phil Simms and leading rusher Rodney Hampton for the season due to injury.

In the NFC Championship, the Giants ended Joe Montana and the 49ers’ bid for a three-peat by kicking five field goals en-route to a 15-13 win.

But waiting for them in the Super Bowl was a new and explosive phenomenon: The Buffalo Bills’ “K-Gun Offense,” predicated a quick pace that often meant quarterback Jim Kelly calling the play at the line of scrimmage without an offensive huddle.


Buffalo was coming off a 51-3 destruction of the Raiders in the AFC Championship, with defenses seemingly unable to keep up with the team’s tempo on offense.

This was where Belichick’s creativity came into play. To hold down the Bills, he devised a bold strategy: focus on limiting yards-after-catch from Buffalo receivers, and to entice Kelly into calling more run plays for First-Team All-Pro Thurman Thomas.

On the surface, it seemed counterintuitive. Why would a defense want to induce more carries from such a talented running back? Belichick, as history would show, had already sussed out a larger strategic realization.


“I think the running game was the least of our concerns in that game,” Belichick would say years later of studying the Bills. “And Thurman Thomas is a great back. We knew he was going to get some yards. But I didn’t feel like we wanted to get into a game where they threw the ball 45 times.”

Though Giants players were initially skeptical — priding themselves as one of the top run defenses in the league — there was an implicit trust of Belichick’s schemes. New York also elected to use smaller personnel groups to get more speed on the field (a trend that is now commonplace).


Added to that, there was a degree of gamesmanship. As Lawrence Taylor noted in his autobiography, “LT: Over the Edge,” Belichick had some additional instructions:

He told us it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if we accidentally kicked the ball once in a while after the officials placed it down on the line of scrimmage. That was to slow down Buffalo’s no-huddle offense. [Defensive tackle] Erik Howard must have kicked the ball three or four times after the referee set it. That wasn’t the only slowdown tactic we used. Guys would unpile slower than Bill could run the forty.

Guys would jump on piles long after the tackle had been made so that it would take even longer to unpile ’em. It screwed the Bills up, yes it did. So if you’re going to ask me if I’m surprised Belichick won the Super Bowl in 2001 with the Patriots, the answer is no.

The defense’s combined effort — plus New York’s clock-killing offense (which set a Super Bowl record for time of possession of more than 40 minutes) — proved just enough against Buffalo. In the end, the Bills literally ran out of time, and were forced to kick a longer field goal.

Scott Norwood’s kick sailed wide right, and Parcells, Belichick, and the Giants had their second Super Bowl win. Belichick’s game-plan for Super Bowl XXV would end up in the Hall of Fame, and he would leave New York shortly afterward to become the Browns’ head coach.

Daily highlight: Oklahoma basketball player Austin Reaves hit a classic Larry Bird behind-the-backboard shot in a rivalry win over Texas on Tuesday.

Trivia answer: Craig Biggio.

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