Question of paternal identity adds salt to Martinez wounds

October 14, 2004|By John Eisenberg

NEW YORK - The fans mocked him as he walked from the bullpen to the visitors' dugout before the game.

"Who's your daaa-ddy?"

The fans mocked him again as he stood on the mound before the bottom of the first inning.

"Who's your daaa-ddy?"

But the night's loudest chants mocked Pedro Martinez after he allowed a sixth-inning home run that sent the Yankees on their way to a 3-1 victory over the Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series last night.

"Who's your daaa-ddy?" Martinez will hear it in his nightmares.

The Red Sox's star right-hander found himself in daunting circumstances last night, with everything conspiring against him, including the Yankees' starter, Jon Lieber.

It was too much for him in the end, not that he pitched badly, allowing three runs and four hits in six innings while striking out seven.

"He was fine. If we had scored five or six runs and won, we would be sitting here talking about how well he did," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

But Lieber was better, the Red Sox lost again and, perhaps worst of all, Martinez's much-discussed paternity issue was resolved.

It appears the Yankees are, indeed, his daddy, as he suggested after a September loss to them.

The comment, a throwaway line Martinez uttered in frustration, has become a back-page tabloid staple and spawned an industry of T-shirts and derisive cheers that are cascading through New York and Yankee Stadium. The big city can be a tough place.

As the Yankees built an 8-0 lead in the early innings of their Game 1 victory, the sellout crowd roared the "daddy" chant. It was even louder last night, with Martinez on the mound.

The tabloids have continually fanned the story. One titled its pre-ALCS special section "Come to Daddy," featuring a cartoon in which, according to the headline, "Pedro and the Bosox pop in for their annual spanking."

Another paper called its special section "a Father's Day celebration."

There was a new twist yesterday when one daily ran a picture of the Red Sox's Game 1 loser, Curt Schilling, with the headline, "I want my mommy!"

It's all in fun and just a media sideshow, but it's probably a little too shrill and personal if you're Martinez. No one was surprised when he ducked a standard session with reporters before Game 1. Too much daddy.

In the past, Martinez has enjoyed being an inscrutable star who makes bizarre comments the world can't make sense of, but this one got out of hand.

"I wish I had never said it," he admitted before the series.

Never more so than last night.

The pressure on him was intense. Things tend to get exaggerated and embellished when these teams play, but you couldn't overstate the pressure on Martinez.

The Sox badly needed a win, and they were reeling from a pre-game announcement that Schilling has an ankle injury that could keep him from pitching well, or at all, in the rest of the series.

Toughest of all for Martinez, his September loss to the Yankees was part of his season-ending run of four losses in six decisions, his worst run in years.

Was his fastball still dominating? He had to try to answer that question last night on baseball's grandest stage, with nowhere to hide.

This was one instance of an athlete certifiably earning every penny of his mega-millions salary.

When he walked to the mound in the first, he smiled and seemed to answer the "Who's your daddy?" question by pointing to the heavens.

Then he started the game by walking Derek Jeter and hitting Alex Rodriguez. When Gary Sheffield followed with a run-scoring single, it seemed the Yankees would waste no time proving they did, indeed, lord over Martinez as a paternal figure might.

But Martinez escaped the inning without allowing another run, then threw four scoreless innings, working deliberately but effectively. The chants decreased.

But the Yankees maintained the 1-0 lead behind Lieber, a low-profile veteran making just his second career postseason start, and the pressure of having to be perfect eventually got to Martinez. He left a fastball over the plate and the Yankees' John Olerud put it into the right-field bleachers for a two-run homer in the sixth.

As Olerud circled the bases, the mocking chant again filled the air:

"Who's your daaa-ddy? Who's your daaa-ddy?"

Martinez later delivered on a previous pledge to appear in the post-game interview room, win or lose, and ever unpredictable, took a philosophical view.

"If you go back 15 years, I was sitting under a mango tree [in his native Dominican Republic] without 50 cents for the bus; tonight, I was the center of attention of all of New York. I thank God for that," Martinez said. "These people made me feel really important."

A cynic would say: Isn't that a father's duty?

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