It seems fitting that former Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne was honoured by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the same week as the 20th anniversary of Dennis Martinez’s perfect game.
Van Horne’s inspired call of “El Presidente … El Perfecto” on July 28, 1991 was one of the most memorable in Canadian baseball history.
It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since Martinez disposed of 27 consecutive Dodgers in a 2-0 win at Chavez Ravine to become the only pitcher from a Canadian team to author a perfect game.
Employing 80 per cent fastballs, the pencil-thin, 36-year-old right-hander, who was the first big leaguer from Nicaragua, stifled a Dodgers lineup that included Brett Butler, Eddie Murray and Darryl Strawberry.
That game was the highlight of Martinez’s storied 23-year major league career that saw him win 245 games and be selected to four all-star teams. After starting his career in Baltimore, El Presidente’s finest big league seasons came in Montreal from 1986 to 1993. The former Expos ace now works as a pitching coach with the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League.
On the 20th anniversary of his perfect game, I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the Canadian facets of Martinez’s unforgettable game:
Maple Ridge, B.C. native Larry Walker played first base for the Expos. The Canadian slugger also knocked in the game-winning run and scored the Expos’ second run in the seventh inning.
Veteran catcher Ron Hassey was Martinez’s battery-mate. Hassey may be familiar to Blue Jays fans for two other historic events. He was the backstop for the perfect game that right-hander Len Barker tossed against the Jays on May 15, 1981. And later as a Yankee, Hassey lifted the fly ball to left that George Bell caught to secure the Jays’ first American League East title on October 5, 1985.
In a game won by Dennis Martinez, it’s only fitting that another Martinez, Dave Martinez, who would toil with the Blue Jays in 2000, scored the winning run.
“El Presidente” conquered a Dodgers lineup that included former Blue Jays Alfredo Griffin and Mike Morgan, and one future Jay in Juan Samuel. Morgan, who pitched for the Jays in 1983, tossed a complete game four-hitter for the Dodgers but took the loss.
According to the excellent book “Remembering the Montreal Expos” by Danny Gallagher and Bill Young, Martinez hurled the perfect game while his name was being mentioned in a trade rumor that linked him to the Jays. It was widely reported that Martinez would be shipped to the Jays for Quebec-born prospect Denis Boucher.
If you’re feeling nostalgic about El Presidente’s perfect game, have a look at this video: http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=3251261