Once upon a time, a slender young man named Martinez stood flashing his golden arm atop baseball mounds across America and threatened to become one of the greatest in the game.
The year was 1990, and he would develop into one of baseball’s most exciting attractions that summer, fashioning a 20-6 record with a 2.92 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning.
He finished second in his league’s Cy Young Award balloting.
He was going places, this young Martinez, and he just might carry the Los Angeles Dodgers along with him.
His first name? Ramon.
The First Shall Be … Well, First
Yes, before future phenom and eventual Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez even signed his first pro contract, older brother Ramon was rising through the Dodgers’ farm system as one of the best prospects in baseball.
In fact, Pedro and Ramon effected some synchronous fortunes for the Dodgers …
On June 18, 1988, sixteen-year-old Pedro signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic.
Less than two months later, on August 13, Ramon made his big league debut for the Dodgers, who were in the heat of a pennant race. His 1-3 record was not too inspiring, but that 3.79 ERA in 35.2 innings over nine appearances was none too shabby.
More seasoning on the farm followed to start 1989, but Martinez was up to stay in Los Angeles for good by June and 6-4 with a 3.19 ERA the rest of the way.
And then, in 1990, young Ramon Martinez stepped into the Dodgers’ rotation and blossomed just when they needed him most — ace Orel Hershiser went down after four games with a torn labrum.
Martinez spanned the breach and helped sooth the loss of Bulldog as the Dodgers fought to keep up with season-long frontrunners, the Cincinnati Reds, in the old NL West.
By then, Ramon had appeared on several baseball cards, and his rookie cards were already heating up before his breakout season. As his numbers climbed that summer, his 1989 RCs sizzled among the hottest cards on the market.
Meanwhile, Down on the Farm …
While Ramon was tearing up the National League, Pedro made his professional debut with the Rookie-level Great Falls Dodgers, going 8-3 with a 3.62 ERA. It was an auspicious beginning for the 18-year-old, and his older brother was singing his praises during interview all through the campaign.
Two years later, after another solid season in 1991, Ramon struggled to an 8-11, 4.00 line, while Pedro wrapped up his second stint in Triple-A with a 7-6, 3.81 showing.
That September, little brother got the call to the bigs, and the two siblings were teammates — briefly, and then again.
Pedro made one start at Albuquerque to begin the 1993 season before heading north to Chavez Ravine again, where manager Tommy Lasorda inserted him into the Dodgers bullpen. He’d stay there pretty much all year, racking up 65 appearances and pitching to a 2.71 ERA.
Meanwhile, Ramon stayed healthy and rebounded to a large degree, posting a 10-12 mark with a 3.44 ERA in 32 starts.
It looked like the brothers were headed for a long and fruitful run together on the L.A. mound, but then, in November of 1993, the Dodgers shipped young Pedro to the Montreal Expos in exchange for Delino DeShields.
Pedro immediately found a spot in the Expos’ rotation and soon developed into a superstar, copping the NL Cy Young Award in 1997 before moving on to the Boston Red Sox the next year.
Back in L.A., Ramon continued to pitch well, turning in lopsided winning records from 1994 through 1998, running up a .685 winning percentage during that span.
But durability started to become an issue as the elder Martinez moved into his late 20s, and his number of starts fell from 30 in 1995 to 15 in 1998, thanks to a torn rotator cuff early on in that final campaign of the run.
Reunited, and It Feels So … Strained
That November (1998), Ramon became a free agent but found no takers until the following March of … when the Boston Red Sox came calling.
By the time the Sawx signed Ramon, Pedro had finished second in the AL Cy Young voting in 1998, and he’d win the next two awards.
He was well on his way to becoming a legend.
Ramon, on the other hand, had sort of slid from the public eye thanks to his diminished mound time, and in spite of continued solid results.
So, while his signing was a nice story, it didn’t spark too much excitement, especially since he spent nearly all season bouncing around Boston’s farm system.
He got the call to Fenway in August, though, and the Martinez brothers were finally in a big league rotation together, at least for the four starts Ramon made during the season’s final month.
The arrangement continued the next season, when Ramon made 27 starts, fashioning a decent 10-8 record … but with an unsightly 6.13 ERA.
That was all she wrote for the Martinez Brothers in Boston, and the Red Sox let him walk in November.
He signed with the Dodgers in January of 2001, but the homecoming didn’t last through Spring Training when they released him on March 28.
The Pittsburgh Pirates took a flyer on the 33-year old in mid-April, and Martinez made four starts (0-2, 8.62 ERA) before the Bucs released him in early May.
Not too surprisingly, that final fling in Pittsburgh wasn’t enough to land Ramon on any 2002 baseball cards.
And so, we’re left a generation later with a final cardboard look at a man whose fine career is overshadowed by his brother’s Hall of Fame status:
Find Ramon Martinez cards on eBay (affiliate link)
Find Ramon Martinez cards on Amazon (affiliate link)
And if that 2001 Topps card of Ramon Martinez looks strange, like “did he really pitch for the Red Sox??” strange — well, that’s probably because we still think he belongs in Dodger Blue.
The record book says we’re right.
Ramon and Pedro have two more brothers, and the youngest Martinez, Jesus, was also a professional baseball player. While he never appeared in a big league game, Jesus does appear with his sibs in this eBay lot:
That’s a baseball signed by Ramon, Pedro, and Jesus Martinez.
Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).
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