SEATTLE – For more than a decade, Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez made up the heart of the Mariners’ lineup.
Now, they’ll be side by side forever.
“I heard them say it was like I’m still hitting behind him,” Martinez said. “It’s really cool. We played together for over 10 years and we grew as players and men together. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
On Wednesday, the Seattle Mariners unveiled Martinez’s statue overlooking Edgar Martinez Drive on the south side of T-Mobile Park. It’s the third one the team has installed at the stadium, with Martinez’s statue located about 100 feet away from his longtime teammate Griffey’s.
“When you play the game, you never think about having a statue,” Martinez said. “It’s something that the day that it happens you reflect. It’s not many people who get a statue at a stadium, so it’s very special and has a great meaning. I think it can impact other young kids, having Junior’s and my statue there, maybe other kids can dream.”
The piece was sculpted by Lou Cella, the Chicago-based artist who also immortalized the likenesses of former Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus in center field and Griffey on the corner of Martinez Drive and Niehaus Way in front of T-Mobile Park’s main gate. He also sculpted the Don James statue in front of Husky Stadium.
The statue, crafted first in clay then cast in bronze, similar to both the Niehaus and Griffey statues, depicts Martinez finishing his swing from the famous walk-off double against the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the Mariners’ 1995 American League Divisional Series, the deepest playoff run in franchise history.
For Martinez, who spent his entire 18-year MLB career in Seattle, the honor caps off a long list of accolades from MLB and the Mariners. Following his retirement in 2004, a part of South Atlantic Street was renamed after him, and the league renamed its outstanding designated hitter award after him.
The man with the most appearances as a player or coach in franchise history, Martinez was inducted into the Mariners’ Hall of Fame in 2007, and the team retired his No. 11 in 2017.
It took him a little longer to get recognition from national baseball writers, who finally voted him into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019. He’s the second player to head to Cooperstown sporting a Mariners hat, joining Griffey, who showed up for his former teammate’s statue unveiling.
“His work ethic is No. 1,” Griffey said. “Being able to do the things he did, started preparation at 2 o’clock to play a 7 o’clock game, not a whole lot of people are that dedicated and he had to do it every day.
“He’s right next to me in the outfield and at Cooperstown.”
Conversations about giving Martinez a statue began in late 2018, and Cella finished working on it near the end of 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the statue’s presentation, but for the notoriously calm Martinez, the emotion was still evident.
“I wanted to be like Roberto Clemente, and that dream of mine in some way had become reality,” he said in a speech following the unveiling. “But in that dream, I never thought about having a statue with my name on it, so thank you.”
Martinez’s reality has moved even closer to his hero’s following Wednesday’s presentation.
Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates legend, was honored with a statue outside PNC Park in 1994. Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs mentioned taking Martinez to visit Clemente’s statue during his final season and seeing the impact it had on the Hall of Famer.
Yet the experience of meeting an idol isn’t quite what everyone gets from the statue. Griffey joked that if Martinez had simply hit a home run instead of a double to walk off Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS, the former Mariners center fielder wouldn’t have to keep seeing highlights of himself sliding into home. Martinez fired back, pointing out that if he had hit third and Griffey batted cleanup, he would’ve been standing on third after his friend’s base hit with the game still tied.
“Sometimes things just play out perfect,” he said.
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