Edgar Martinez, the beloved designated hitter who spent his entire career with the Seattle Mariners, will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend.
“It took 10 years for the baseball world to understand Edgar’s contribution and status,” KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel told Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick in their weekly chat.
But Seattle has understood all along, dating all the way back to a play that still gives Mariners fans chills: The Double.
“It was the moment in the history of Seattle sports," Thiel said. "It was intense. It was explosive. It was tear-generating. Eighteen years of basset-faced history with the Mariners had ended with winning a series against the dreadnought team in Major League Baseball."
Fast-forward nearly two decades, and Martinez finally found his way to Cooperstown — in his final year of Hall of Fame voting eligibility. He earned 85.4 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America, clearing the 75 percent threshold for induction.
Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone says it wasn't as much of a sure thing heading into the final tally earlier this year, compared to what he calls the "coronation" of Ken Griffey Jr. three years ago.
“It looked really dire for a while,” Stone told All Things Considered host Ed Ronco, in a phone conversation Thursday. “I think a lot of people gave up hope at that point.”
What followed was a sort of miraculous turnaround in momentum, Stone said. In true Martinez fashion, the newest Hall of Famer handled it graciously and quietly, he added.
“I think there’s maybe just a little more of an empathy and a feeling of satisfaction among fans for Edgar, because of the way he waited,” said Stone, who also co-authored the book "Edgar: An Autobiography."
And, he said, there’s a different kind of loyalty for the guy who stuck around.
“Edgar’s the one who stayed,” Stone said. “That adds a layer of joy for Mariners fans.”
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) January 22, 2019
Martinez's numbers are staggering, yet often overlooked. After all, the year of The Double (1995) was the first time the M’s made it onto a national stage, and the team’s dramatic run to its first playoff appearance in franchise history followed years of losing seasons.
Still, Martinez — whose career bloomed late — hit .312 with 309 home runs in a total of 2,055 games.
“The analytics began to come out that Edgar was, basically, the best hitter in baseball since Joe DiMaggio,” Thiel said, “which is a pretty high compliment.”
But Martinez’s appeal went beyond the stats: “It wasn't just how successful a hitter he was,” Thiel added. “It was how consistent he was, how humble he was, and how self-effacing he was as a personality."
And as he readies for Sunday’s ceremony in Cooperstown, New York, Martinez told The Associated Press that it’s business as usual.
“I think it’s like anything, if you want to do it right and do well you have to practice,” he said of preparing for his speech. “You’re preparing for some performance, whether it’s hitting in a game or a speech.”
So, Martinez will be immortalized in the Hall, on a plaque wearing a Mariners cap — only the second player to do so, behind Griffey who was elected in the 2016 class.
But as much as he belongs in Cooperstown, his legacy will always belong in Seattle.
"I think the big embrace here in Seattle is he never left. He was part of the community," Thiel said. "He's still a part of things here. I think people not only admire his skill but admire his embrace of the community. And they've hugged him back."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.