Pedro Martinez throwing Don Zimmer to the ground remains a lasting image from the 2003 ALCS and in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry as a whole. Outside of the former Red Sox ace RHP’s 2015 book Pedro, Martinez had not delved deep into the altercation — until now.
Reflecting on the 2003 ALCS brawl between Boston and New York in the fourth inning of Game 3 at Fenway Park, Martinez broke down everything about his incident with Zimmer, then the Yankees’ bench coach.
“Well, I threw a ball behind (Yankees RF) Karim Garcia and my shoulder was hurting,” Martinez told Master Tesfatsion of Bleacher Report’s Untold Stories. “And I had men on first and second. Karim Garcia‘s the (eighth)-place hitter. And I’m trying to rush a fastball up and in on him, but I did it out of the slide step. And I took the ball — I’m dragging, I’m tired, I’m aching. You can’t let the opposition know that your shoulder hurts. So the ball came behind him and instead of in front of him, up here, came behind him. So when he ducked down, the ball hit the bat. It looks like the ball’s over his head.
“So Zimmer took objection to that. They started yapping, this and that. I continue to pitch, got a ground ball, double play. But when Karim Garcia’s going to second, he almost kills the second baseman. So he was sliding to second and took my second baseman out. I just said, ‘What are you thinking? This is a 3-2 game … who wants to hit you? You crazy? Clean it up.’ So (Yankees C Jorge) Posada popped up. Zimmer popped up. Everybody started yapping at me. But I went in, got the inning done.
“(Yankees RHP) Roger Clemens throws the ball at (Red Sox LF) Manny (Ramirez). And then Manny was angry, yapping, this and that. I’m in the bathroom. I was in the bathroom. When I came out, the brawl was already (happening) because I’m zipping up my pants quickly, I’m trying to get to see what’s going on. And that’s when I hear the mumbling kind of behind me. And I see Zimmer rushing towards me and I’m like, ‘What?’ And that’s when he got close to me, said some bad words that I didn’t expect from Zimmer either.
“He actually tried to jab me. So I pulled it and that’s why it looks like I grabbed him. But in reality, that’s the only blemish I would love to erase from my career. There hasn’t been any other moment where I felt worse in my life — I will tell you, my life — than that moment. And that moment led to a lot more.”
The Yankees went on to win 4-3 over the Red Sox and ultimately took the series in seven games. New York suffered a 4-2 loss to the then-Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series. The following year, the Yankees and Red Sox met again in the 2004 ALCS, where New York blew a 3-0 series lead and Boston won the World Series, ending an 85-season drought dating back to 1918.
Martinez, an eight-time All-Star who played for the Red Sox from 1998-04, was inducted into the 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame and has since been received much differently in New York.
“You know what? It’s a lot better than I ever thought,” said Martinez, now a studio analyst with the MLB Network and TBS broadcast crews. “People really realize what I did, how I did it. I became a Hall of Famer. I’ve done so many other things that people didn’t know. They see that my attitude was different when I wasn’t pitching.”