Pedro Martinez is considered one of the most dominant pitchers in MLB history, one that was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2015. However, the long-time Boston Red Sox ace isn’t a Hall of Famer because of how he pitched against the New York Yankees - who he famously referred to as his “daddies” after he gave up five runs in a start in September of 2004.
The final chapter of the Martinez-Yankees rivalry came during the 2009 World Series, when Martinez was pitching for the defending World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Two of the Phillies four losses in that series came in games that Martinez started at Yankee Stadium. He now says that he had to labor through what turned out to be the final two starts of his career.
Over the weekend, the Phillies celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their 2009 team. Martinez, for the first time, said that his struggles went beyond being a 37-year-old that preferred pitching in warm weather.
“It wasn’t told, but most of us were sick,” Martinez told the collective media, including Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Some of the guys had swine flu and had to be kept away. I caught some of the virus. We would just never say it. When I got home, I realized that I was really sick.”
2009 was the height of the swine flu, a sickness that didn’t discriminate. A 2013 study suggests that it killed more than 200,000 people across the world in 2009, which puts into perspective the severity of it. It’s unclear exactly to what degree Martinez and his Phillies teammates were afflicted with the swine flu, but it obviously would hinder your ability to compete on the sport’s biggest stage.
With the Phillies up 1-0 in the series following a complete game from Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the World Series, Martinez got the ball in Game 2. Though he limited the Yankees to six hits and three runs over six innings, A.J. Burnett tossed seven innings for the Yankees, allowing just four hits and one run. Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera pitched the final two innings of the game.
However, with a chance to force a pivotal Game 7 of the series, Martinez wasn’t as effective in his start in Game 6 of the series. The three-time Cy Young Award winner lasted just four innings in what turned out to be the final game of the series, allowing three hits, four walks and two runs.
“I had a little bit of an asthma attack in the middle of the game and I was having a hard time breathing,” Martinez said. “I was really sick. In any other situation, I wouldn’t be out there. But the team needed me. I held on as long as I could and I did that. I was really proud to have my last game with the Phillies at Yankee Stadium.”
The Phillies signed Martinez in July of 2009, a few weeks before they would acquire the aforementioned Lee. In nine regular season starts, he went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA, 4.28 FIP and 0.5 fWAR. In Game 2 of the NLCS, seemingly when he didn’t have the Swine Flu, Martinez tossed seven dominant innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing just two hits.