My father had a few rules that I always had to follow. One of which being the don’t leave rule. Sounds very important, perhaps only used in emergency situations. Though it was a simple rule. Do not leave a Dodger ball game until the last out is recorded. No matter what. Loving baseball, and the Dodgers, it was the easiest rule I had, it seemed. This rule of my father’s prevented me from missing one of the more obscure major league debuts in history, of one of the game’s best.
If ever a time to break this golden baseball rule, it was this game. The Dodgers were late in a season that saw them sitting some 30 games out of first place. On this particular night the Reds were in town and they brought their bats. Barry Larkin had a great night at the plate versus a Dodgers staff that was more than a bit worn out. In the top of the 7th reliever Roger McDowell walked the leadoff hitter, then gave up a double, triple and a single, and the Reds had broke the game open at 8-4. It was getting tougher to listen to that sacred rule of parental wisdom. I was in my teenage years, worried about getting through the traffic. I considered breaking the rule. This game is over, the date was September 24, so the season was very much over, especially before the Wild Card Playoffs. In the bottom of the 7th the Dodgers had no answer against left handed reliever Norm Charlton and went down in order. The temptation to leave grew.
As the Dodgers took the field in the 8th inning a new pitcher joined them from the bullpen. From my vantage point, third base side and the level above field, he looked much skinnier and smaller than anyone else on the field. All of a sudden, on a warm-up pitch, my father’s rule became so absolutely clear to me, you could miss something magical. It was electric, a warm-up pitch. The ball jumped from his hand with such ease and velocity, I could not believe how live his arm was and how electric his stuff was. I knew I was witnessing a phenomenal talent.
I saw the Major League Debut of future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Imagine if I had left this seemingly meaningless game just one inning before the debut of one of the greatest pitchers of a generation. I consider myself very lucky to have witnessed this event, not many can say they were there. It was a Thursday night game at the end of September with a team way out of the race. Believe me, after that 7th inning eruption by the Reds, many fans poured out of the stands and into their cars. The paid attendance was just over 18k, and by the 8th inning, that was cut in half. I am so thankful for my dad, for so many things, and for September 24th, 1992 and the debut of a legend.