Baseball Card of the Week: Dennis Martinez in 1988

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Today's Card of the Week features a player who was truly inspirational to me, just earlier this week. Now, how useful that inspiration proved to be is very much up for debate, but it was an inspiration nonetheless.

This particular card comes to us from Mr. Andy Roscoe of St. Louis. It's a 1988 Dennis Martinez card by Score.

Dennis Martinez, or El Presidente as he was often known, just so happened to be one of the favorite players of both Mr. Roscoe and myself back in the day. Amazing pitcher, one of only sixteen pitchers to ever throw a perfect game. He was a truly classy individual on the mound, with a fantastic, funky delivery, and one of the greatest mustaches you'll ever see in the game of baseball. What more could you ask for from a player? Truly a complete package.

You want to know something fascinating (to me at least), about Dennis Martinez? He finished his career with 3,999.2 innings pitched. That's right, he ended up exactly one out away from 4,000 innings. Don't you think he could have just signed a contract with someone to throw an inning of relief or something, just to get that last batter?

In 1988, Martinez had a beautiful season for a so-so (final record: 81-81) team, going 15-13 with a 2.72 ERA. He made 34 starts that year, tossing 235.1 innings, with 120 strikeouts and only 55 walks. That walk number alone tells you most of what you need to know about Martinez. He was never a truly overpowering pitcher, but had outstanding control and a tremendous competitive spirit. If you had asked the eight-year-old me (the age I was in '88), what player I wanted to see play for the Cardinals more than anyone else, the first name out of my mouth would have been Dennis Eckersley. The second would have been Martinez.

Perhaps that dream will still come true for me. Martinez is now a pitching coach in the Cardinals' minor league system; for the short-season Palm Beach Cardinals, I believe. Perhaps, some time down the road, we may see El Presidente in the St. Louis dugout, finally wearing the Birds on the Bat, as the major league pitching coach. One can only hope.

Oh, and the inspiration part of my story? Well, I've been trying to come up with a good nickname for Chris Perez ever since he first came up to the big leagues, with fairly limited success. Then, from out of the blue, Mr. Roscoe sends me his email containing this card, along with his own musings on the career of El Presidente, and inspiration hit me. El Perezidente. The rest, as they say, is history. See, I told you that it may be relatively useless inspiration, but hey, I happen to like that nickname.

As always, please send any submissions to me at asaeschafer@gmail.com. Thanks to any and all who have sent cards to me.

- Aaron Schafer

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