D. Martinez pitches from neutral position Rooting interests collide for ex-Oriole/ex-Indian

October 09, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Like a true politician, Dennis Martinez wouldn't say which team he is pulling for in the American League Championship Series. After all, Martinez played for the Orioles and the Cleveland Indians, helping pitch both teams to World Series appearances.

"I just want to enjoy the games and carry that excitement on to Latin American countries," said Martinez, who was in town last night as an analyst for Fox Sports International. "It will be interesting if you understand Spanish."

The Indians decided not to re-sign him after last season, and Martinez's career ended when he was released by the Seattle Mariners in May after going 1-5 with a 7.71 ERA in nine starts.

Martinez chooses to say that he hasn't retired, but that the Mariners have retired him.

"I'm still young enough, I'm still in good shape, it's still on my mind," Martinez said. "When I got released, no team is going to take a chance on a guy who's going to be 43 years old. If it was done in August, I'm sure somebody might have given me a look."

There was talk a few years ago that Martinez, a beloved figure in his native Nicaragua, might run for president in the then-warring country. Martinez said he was as surprised to hear that as anybody. In fact, the only one who might have been more shocked was his wife.

"I thought, 'How bad are things going at home for them to want me to be president?' Martinez said with a laugh. "I took it as a great consideration that the people trusted me so much. But I'm kind of hardheaded and I like to say what I want. My wife said, 'If you get into politics, you're going to be shot the next day.' "

Martinez has become active in Nicaragua, but it's through a foundation he's forming to help children through education and sports. But he wouldn't mind putting his plans on hold for one more chance in the big leagues.

"Baseball's still on my mind," he said.

Martinez is something of a folk hero in Cleveland as well, having pitched the Indians into their first World Series in 41 years when he won Game 6 of the 1995 ALCS against the Mariners.

"I still think about it," he said. "That's the greatest feeling I've ever had in baseball."

Bigger than the perfect game he threw for the Montreal Expos?

"The perfect game was something emotional because I did something extraordinary," he said. "Game 6 was special because I did it for a whole city."

Pub Date: 10/09/97

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