THIS DAY IN BÉISBOL June 16: Dennis Martinez trade starts a grand new chapter

The Starting Nine, Latino Baseball Illustration

By Robert Dominguez

He was a solid starter on some pretty good Baltimore teams, but Dennis Martinez always lived in the shadows of big-name, Cy Young-quality teammates like Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan and Steve Stone.

By 1986, the under-appreciated Martinez was deemed expendable by the Orioles after winning 108 games in a little over 10 years with the team.

On this day in béisbol, June 16, 1986, Martinez and his magnificent mustache were dealt — dumped, really — to the Montreal Expos for a player to be named later.

The Nicaragua native was 32 years old and had been in a steady decline over the past few seasons with a perpetual ERA over 5.00, so it wasn’t hard to blame Baltimore brass for the move.

But Martinez stuffed it to the Birds almost immediately as a new team, the fresh Canadian air — and a DH-less league — helped rejuvenate the veteran righty. 

While the once-mighty Orioles floundered in the late ‘80s, Martinez flourished. In 1987, he won 11 games in 22 starts with a 3.30 ERA in his first full season with the Expos, then followed that with 15- and 16-win campaigns.

At age 37 in 1991, Martinez won the National league ERA title (2.39). That year he also became just the 13th pitcher and the first born outside the U.S. to pitch a perfect game when he shut down the Dodgers in L.A., 2-0.

Martinez would go on to win another 100 games in his nearly eight seasons in Montreal, then fortify the staff of a powerhouse Indians ballclub in their 1995 pennant year with a 12-5, 3.08 season — at age 41.

When he retired three years later after 23 seasons, Martinez was only the winningest Latin American pitcher in MLB history with 245 wins, a record he held for 20 years until Bartolo Colon (247 wins) passed him in 2008. 

Not a bad second act.

Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls” and writer of the upcoming “El Salón: The Trials and Triumphs of Baseball’s Latino Hall of Famers.”

Photo: By unknown author – Public Domain