Greg Maddux was great, but he was brainy and reserved and kept his dry wit mostly to himself. Roger Clemens was great, but he was a cheater, a mercenary and an asshole. Pedro Martinez—now here was an all-time great pitcher and an all-time great personality. Funny, fiery, endlessly quotable, unforgettably peculiar. In New York, he is perhaps best known for two things: (1) dumping then-septuagerian Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer head first on the grass, matador-style, during a benches-clearing brawl with his Boston Red Sox, and (2) professing his love of gardening in a goofy New York Times profile during his career-capping tenure with the Mets. (Pedro, to one of his tulips: "What about you, beauty? Aren't you going to grow up to be so pretty?) Next week, Martinez will join TBS as a studio analyst during the network's playoff coverage. GQ spoke with Petey about why he never played for the Yankees, how he maintained those famous hair curls, and which team's hat he'll be wearing into the Hall of Fame.
You played for the Mets, so Mets fans love you. You beat the Yankees, so Yankees fans hate you. What's the reaction like whenever you come to New York?
When you play for Boston, it's difficult to be loved by the Yankee fans, but they certainly respect me, and I appreciate that. I don't need them to feel like they have to hug me, but I do respect that they love their Yankees. I was a Boston Red Sock, and I totally understand not liking me as a Red Sock. But if I happened to come and play for the Yankees, I'm pretty sure they would have been crazy about it. Which I almost did.
How close were you?
I was as close as probably one decision by [Yankees GM Brian] Cashman. In '09, I almost came over, but Cashman offered me to go to the minor leagues before I left the Dominican Republic, and I just said, "No, I'm not a minor league player." So I refused to go to the minor leagues. I said I'd do rehab things, but no minor leagues.
When you played, were you concerned with the way you looked on the field?
As a player, there's a day you want to feel comfortable. Some days, you wear your normal pants, but some other days, let's say a hot day, you don't want to be all that tight, you want to be, like, loose. So you out on a little wider pair of pants or stuff like that. I would stay pretty much normal most of the time. But there are days in the middle of the summer when you want to be loose.
But your hair was always awesome.
[laughs uproariously] That was the Pedro Martinez style!
Did your hair require a lot of maintenance?
Yes, yes it did. It takes a lot because you have to rinse it out every day, or else you go bald. I had a stylist who would come over and take care of it.
Did you have to change hats often?
I had two gamers, and if it got a little dirty I'd switch to the other one. Or the one you wore in the dugout, that was the next one to be used when the other one gets done.
Who has your favorite hair now in baseball?
Quite a few…[thinks for a while] I would have to say, Don Julio: Jason Werth.
You famously said you would drill the ghost of Babe Ruth in the ass. Is the ass the best place to drill somebody if you have to hit a batter?
You know, what I said about Babe Ruth was more to get the media off me about the curse [of the Bambino], and it's too bad nobody ever gets the other part. I said that I didn't believe in curses, that the Bambino was a good man and I don't believe he left curses for anybody, that he did a lot of good things for the community. I just knew this way I could get the media away from me and not have to talk about the curse any more. I said that about him, but I have all the respect in the world. He's the symbol of baseball, and I don't want to disrespect the Bambino, ever.
OK, but is that still the best place to hit a batter?
[immediately] Yeah. There and the ribs.
Ooh, the ribs seems like they would really hurt.
Yes. Yes, it would hurt, but that's the area as long as you make sure you don't go up at the head.
When you played for the Mets you did an interview where you talked about how much you loved gardening. Is that still something you enjoy?
Oh yes, I still do gardening; I still enjoy my roses, my flowers. My Mom taught me when I was a kid, that it would be a way for me to relax. Let's say my older brothers would pick on me or something, and I was mad, my Mom would take me to the garden and start clipping flowers and stuff like that. So I became hooked.
So when you played did you pay special attention to the groundskeeping. Like, were you interested in how they grew the grass and stuff like that?
Yes, yes. It was so beautiful. I always wanted to lay down in centerfield and look up.
Who were the most fun teammates you ever played with?
So many! But I would have to say between [Red Sox teammates Kevin] Millar, Manny [Ramirez, believe it or not, Curtis Leskanic…so many of them that make you laugh all day
Papi's funny, but not like Manny. You look at Manny doing his thing, and you just laugh.
I think most fans, we never really heard from him, so we don't understand him the way you guys did.
Well, Manny is different. Manny does so many crazy things that you can't stop laughing.
Manny being Manny?
Manny being Manny. If you look back at everything that many did…[laughing] How can you catch a throw from Johnny Damon, and even dive for it? [Martinez is referring to this moment, when Ramirez inexplicably dove to cut off a relay throw from another Sox outfielder] That's just crazy!
Last question: You're eligible for the Hall of Fame next year. Have you thought about what team's hat you'd want to wear on your plaque?
Boston. Without a doubt, Boston.
Authored by Lang Whitaker via gq.com.