Martinez to receive Mariners immortality

Martinez to receive Mariners immortality

SEATTLE -- Alvin Davis, the first player inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame, was nicknamed "Mr. Mariner."

Make room for "Senor Mariner."

Edgar Martinez, the franchise leader in virtually every offensive category, and one of the most popular players in the Mariners' 30-year history, will take his place in the Mariners Hall of Fame, alongside former teammates Davis and Jay Buhner and longtime broadcaster Dave Niehaus, prior to Saturday night's game between the Mariners and Rangers.

A little more than three years after playing in his 2,055th regular-season game and delivering his 2,247th career hit, the man called "Gar" by his fans and known as "Papi" to his teammates, steps to the plate one more time for what he calls "a tremendous honor."

"When you get a reward like this, it makes me feel good to know that all the hard work I put in through the years paid off," he said. "It is a great, great honor to join Alvin, Jay and Dave in the Hall of Fame."

In a prelude to Saturday's induction ceremonies, the Mariners held an Edgar Martinez Hall of Fame luncheon in left field on Friday afternoon inside a sun-splashed Safeco Field. More than 90 tables were filled with Martinez fans that came to salute him and chant "Ed-Gar!" one more time.

Martinez shared a lengthy head table with former teammates Davis, Buhner, Dan Wilson, Dave Valle, Mike Blowers, Jeff Nelson, Norm Charlton, Bret Boone, Willie Bloomquist and Raul Ibanez. Mariners manager Mike Hargrove, bench coach John McLaren and head trainer Rick Griffin also shared the day, and the dais, with Martinez.

Wilson, who spent his 12-year Major League career with the Mariners -- almost always in the same lineup as Martinez -- recalled a conversation he had with Ryan Lefebvre when both were students at the University of Minnesota.

"I was a junior, and Ryan was a freshman," Wilson said. "His dad, Jim Lefebvre, managed here, and Ryan and I would talk about the team and the Kingdome and stuff like that. One of the things he mentioned, and something I'll never forget, was this guy named Edgar Martinez. He said, 'He's the greatest hitter they have, and he's a great guy.'

"I always remembered him saying that -- great hitter, great guy."

A couple of years later, after Wilson was drafted and signed by the Reds, he was playing in Nashville when he became a teammate of Scott Bradley, a former catcher with the Mariners.

"Being catchers, we talked a lot," Wilson said, "and I asked him about Seattle and the Mariners. The name 'Edgar Martinez' came up and Scott said the identical thing Ryan had said about Martinez. He told me, 'Edgar's a great hitter, and a great guy.'"

After being traded to the Mariners prior to the 1994 season, Wilson discovered for himself just how great of a hitter and how great of a guy Edgar Martinez is.

"Gar was a great hitter, and he made everyone around him better," Wilson said. "His work ethic was amazing, and it had an impact on all of us. He was a guy I would watch and I can't thank him enough for what he meant to my career."

And what a career it was. All 18 years of it, and all of them with the Mariners.

Martinez was to the Mariners what Cal Ripken Jr. was to the Orioles, what Tony Gwynn was to the Padres and what Kirby Puckett was to the Twins.

Martinez still holds the club record in games, at-bats, hits, doubles, RBIs, total bases, extra-base hits and walks. He also ranks near the top in "Most Popular Television Commercials."

Among the highlights at Friday's salute to Edgar were video clips of his most memorable commercials, including "The Clapper," when he fixes the ballpark light system so the lights go on and off when he claps. Unfortunately, the same thing happened when others clapped, which prompted him to admit, "That's a problem."

Another video highlight, featuring former opponents, also was shown on the big screen in center field.

"You know, when I watched [the playoffs] in '95 and he hit the double that knocked the Yankees out of the postseason," Yankees manager Joe Torre said, "at the time I never realized that maybe that's why I am here now as the manager now."

Torre then offered a plate-full of praise.

"To me, he's the consummate hitter. You couldn't pitch him one way, and you couldn't play him one way. He could hit the ball to right field and pull the ball down the left-field line. And above everything else, he had a ton of class."

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said, "Every time he grabbed a bat, he was in scoring position. To me, he is one of the best right-handed hitters I have ever seen in the game."

Accolades like that that make Martinez a candidate for the ultimate Hall of Fame -- the one in Cooperstown.

He holds most of the designated-hitter records and was so good that in 2004, Martinez's final season, Commissioner Bud Selig renamed the DH award as "The Edgar Martinez Designated Hitter Award."

He becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame after the 2009 season.

"That's the ultimate honor as a ballplayer," Martinez said. "It's an amazing honor, so I guess I have to wait and see how it goes.

"I don't think about it, but when people mention it, that's when I think about it. When I read something about it, or hear something, but other than that, if it gets to that point in 2009, there probably will be more comments about it. That's still kind of far away from now, so it's not something that's in my mind."

First things first, and right now, all of his attention is on the Mariners Hall of Fame.

"I think it's going to be emotional, like today," he said. But it's such a great honor that I think I'm going to try to enjoy the most I can. Definitely, I think it's going to be a little emotional."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.