By Robert Dominguez
He was an unassuming designated hitter on a team loaded with two-way superstars, a late bloomer who let his bat do the talking for him all the way to Cooperstown.
But even with sluggers Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Jay Buhner in the lineup, there’s no way the Seattle Mariners would have enjoyed their winning ways in the late 1990s and early 20s without Edgar Martinez.
On this day in béisbol, May 18, 1998, Martinez had a homer hat trick, blasting three in a game against the Twins. It was an encore performance worthy of his stature as one of the games best pure righty hitters — it came a day after he hit two in the series opener.
The hot-hitting DH had three hits in each of the games with a total of 7 RBI, and the 5 homers in two games tied a Major League record shared by many.
But the mini-streak showed just how lethal Martinez was at the plate, even if he was sometimes overshadowed by his big-name teammates.
The two-time AL batting champion and seven-time all-star was also responsible for giving the designated hitter position its due. The New York City-born, Puerto Rico-raised Martinez, a lifetime .312 hitter, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019 as the first elected player who spent his career primarily as a DH.
If that honor wasn’t enough, the annual award given to the AL’s outstanding DH is now named … the Edgar Martinez.
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: clare_and_ben — Under Creative Commons License, cropped