Martinez helped power Yankee Dynasty of late 1990s
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – For a man who played less than half of his big league seasons in New York, Tino Martinez has always appeared most at home in pinstripes.
Four World Series rings – and a legion of adoring fans – will do that.
Martinez, who played was a part of four World Series-winning teams in seven seasons with the Yankees, is one of 33 players on the 2011 Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for the Class of 2011 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Martinez is making his debut on the BBWAA ballot.
BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 5. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2011. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 24 in Cooperstown.
Born Dec. 7, 1967, in Tampa, Fla., Martinez starred at the University of Tampa before being taken with the 14th overall pick in the 1988 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners. By 1990, Martinez was tearing up Triple-A pitching – earning a promotion to the big leagues. In 1992, Martinez won the Mariners' starting job at first base.
Martinez and the Mariners matured together over the next few seasons, and in 1995 Seattle celebrated its first postseason berth by advancing to the American League Championship Series. Martinez enjoyed his first All-Star selection that year, hitting .293 with 31 homers and 111 RBI.
After the 1995 season, the Mariners – seeking mound help – sent Martinez to the Yankees in exchange for pitching prospect Sterling Hitchcock and infielder Russ Davis. Martinez quickly adjusted to life in New York, hitting 25 home runs to go along with 117 RBI while leading the Yankees to their first World Series title in 18 years.
"On the bench, in the clubhouse, on the field, he was our leader," said former Mariners and Yankees teammate Luis Sojo. "Forget about the numbers. He was all about winning games."
In 1997, Martinez had his best year in the big leagues when he hit 44 homers and drove in 141 runs, finishing second in the AL MVP race and earning his second All-Star game selection. From 1998-2000 – a stretch that featured three Yankees' World Series wins – Martinez averaged 24 home runs and 106 RBI.
"People like the way he plays the game," said former Yankees manager Joe Torre. "They like his passion."
Traded to the Cardinals after the 2001 season, Martinez played two years in St. Louis and one with Tampa before wrapping up his career with the Yankees in 2005. He retired after 16 big league seasons with 1,925 hits, 339 home runs and 1,271 RBI – and those four World Series rings.
In five Fall Classic appearances with the Yankees – including the Yankees' loss to the Diamondbacks in 2001 – Martinez hit .268 with three home runs and 14 RBI.
"To play 16 years in the big leagues... Most people dream of playing one day," Martinez said. "I gave it all I had. And I look back with no regrets.
"I wanted to retire as a Yankee. It's a great way to go out."
Craig Muder is the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum