Thank You, Mr. President

Dennis Martinez’s determination helped him become the first Nicaraguan to play in the major leagues

October 02, 2012
(NBHOF Library)

By Cassidy Lent

Dennis Martinez was El Presidente, and not even the most powerful man in Martinez’s home nation of Nicaragua could rival the durable right-handed pitcher’s popularity in that Central American country.

Martinez was the first native Nicaraguan to play baseball in the major leagues. He was a 14-game winner as a rookie with the Baltimore Orioles in 1977, and he went on to amass 245 wins as a major league pitcher, passing former San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal for the mark of Latin America’s most winning pitcher.

Marvin Benard, who was also Nicaraguan and a big league ballplayer for nine seasons, said: “He means an awful lot to the Nicaraguan people…They don’t call him ‘El Presidente’ for nothing.”

Martinez spent his first 10 full big league seasons with the Orioles, leading Baltimore to two American League pennants and the 1983 World Series title. He moved on to the Montreal Expos, where he was named to three All-Star Games in eight seasons and where he pitched a perfect game in 1991.

Martinez helped Cleveland to postseason appearances in 1995 and 1996, but following a 1-5 campaign in 1997 with the Mariners, Martinez decided to retire – leaving him two wins shy of Marichal’s record for wins for a Latin American pitcher.

But the Atlanta Braves talked Martinez into coming back for a 23rd big league season in 1998, and as a swing man/spot starter Martinez appeared in 53 games, going 4-6. He passed Marichal on Aug. 9, 1998, picking up his 244th win in a relief appearance against the Giants. 

Braves teammate Ozzie Guillen, a native of Venezuela, said: “I know Dennis and I know his family, and I know what this means to him. I know what this means to Latin America.”

Check out bios of other Latin Legends here

Cassidy Lent was a 2012 library research intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development.

For information on how to apply for the Class of 2013 Steele Internship Program, click here