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Sunday, October 03, 2004 - Page updated at 12:17 A.M.
By Bob Finnigan
At another time, not long ago at that, it would have been different.
For years, in countless key at-bats, when Edgar Martinez came to the plate with the bases loaded and his team needing four runs, the warhorse of the Seattle offense would have been able to come through.
He would have driven the ball deep, if not into the seats, then into a gap for one of the doubles for which he earned so many honors in his 18 seasons of distinction.
But last night was not another time.
As Edgar has said for some time now, it is time.
With a dream situation in the midst of Edgar Martinez Day shortly after Ichiro got his only hit, a single for knock No. 260 in the fifth inning the man grounded back to Texas pitcher Kenny Rogers, the Mariners failed to score and went on to a 10-4 defeat.
Ironically, Edgar had speculated that type of situation might arise, last night or today, when he closes out his years as the best hitter the Mariners ever had and possibly the best right-handed hitter of his time.
"You always want to go out big," he said before the game. "But you can dream what you want. There's a pitcher out there trying to keep your dream from coming true, trying to get you out."
Before the game, commissioner Bud Selig and members of George Sisler's family joined the team in recognizing Ichiro's new season hit mark, achieved Friday night.
After the game, they held the main celebration for Edgar, over 90 minutes in recognition of the hitter who led Seattle to almost a decade of competitive excellence, 1995-2003.
Gov. Gary Locke caused the first standing ovation by the Safeco Field sellout of 45,817 by calling for Edgar's election to the Hall of Fame. Locke called him "a role model for our kids" and designated Oct. 2-9 as Edgar Martinez Week.
Selig called him "a role model for our game" and announced that the annual Designated Hitter Award "forever will be known as the Edgar Martinez Award."
This again brought the crowd to its feet with a roar.
It also stunned Edgar and brought the five-time winner of the award to tears.
Mayor Greg Nickels unveiled a sign for Edgar Martinez Drive, which will run alongside the ballpark, with the words, "I'm looking forward to meeting you at the corner of First and Edgar."
Seattle CEO Howard Lincoln called him "an exceptional athlete, a great teammate and a true gentleman" and unveiled a portrait of Edgar's classic high-step batting stroke by artist Michele Rushworth of Sammamish.
Seattle team president Chuck Armstrong announced a $100,000 donation for the Edgar Martinez Endowment for Muscular Dystrophy Research at Children's Hospital.
Former and present teammates gathered, and Bret Boone introduced the man they lovingly call "Papi," saying:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the greatest Mariner of all time."
Edgar thanked people from the organization, naming several officials, including Chairman Emeritus, "Mr. Ellis" (John Ellis); singled out doctors and trainers "for keeping me on the field"; managers, coaches and teammates "past and present for helping me be the best I could be."
He singled out Marty Martinez, the scout who signed him, and Orlando Cepeda, the Puerto Rican Hall of Famer who was an idol to him.
He thanked his family, his children and wife, Holli, to whom he said, "I love you, without you I am nothing."
Closing the ceremony, he thanked the fans and then took a turn around the warning track, about the same speed he'd run bases, high-fiving and waving.
Unfortunately, between alpha and omega of excellence, it was basically nine innings of X's. There was Ichiro's 260th hit, which helped load the bases for Edgar's big at-bat, and beyond that ... nothing.
Edgar came up with the bases full and baseball's all-time best designated hitter took a ball inside, as if he would work the count like he used to.
But then he topped a breaking ball back to Rogers, who threw home for a force and the moment was lost.
"Once I made up my mind to retire, I have never thought of changing my mind," Edgar said before the game. "This season has shown me I can't do the things I used to do. If I left before this year I might always have had questions. But this season has answered them for me. I have exhausted all I had."
All but the emotions that poured down from the jammed stands. In the few moments of silence during the postgame ceremony, it came now and then from one part of the upper deck to another, called to the echoes and true forever:
"We love you, Edgar ... "
Bob Finnigan: 206-464-8276 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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