Former Expos, Jays pitchers inducted into Baseball Hall

Martinez was a Cy Young winner with Montreal, while Ward was one of Toronto's best closers

  • Sports   Wednesday, June 22, 2022   Pat Payton
This year's Canadian  Baseball Hall of Fame inductees pose for a group photo in front of the museum Saturday. From left are: Pedro Martinez, Justin Morneau, Jeff Francis and Duane Ward. It was the first in-person induction ceremony at the Hall grounds sin

This year's Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees pose for a group photo in front of the museum Saturday. From left are: Pedro Martinez, Justin Morneau, Jeff Francis and Duane Ward. It was the first in-person induction ceremony at the Hall grounds sin

By Pat Payton
One of Montreal Expos' best starting pitchers in club history, and one of Toronto Blue Jays' top closers from their World championships teams were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Saturday.
Pedro Martinez won the National League Cy Young Award as a member of the Expos, and hard-throwing Duane Ward established himself as one of the best shutdown, set-up men in the game, combining with closer and 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Tom Henke to form the most overpowering and beloved bullpen tandem in Jays' franchise history. Ward was a member of Toronto's two World championship teams in 1992 and '93.
Martinez and Ward joined the Hall along with a couple of B.C. natives, slugger Justin Morneau and pitcher Jeff Francis.
The four men were inducted from three different classes: Martinez (2018), Morneau and Ward (2020) and Francis (2022). It was the first in-person induction ceremony at the Hall grounds since 2019 due to the Covid pandemic.
Career took off with the Expos
Born in the Dominican Republic in 1971, Pedro Martinez was signed as an amateur free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. He was used primarily as a reliever for parts of two seasons with the Dodgers before being dealt to the Expos on Nov. 19, 1993.
It was in Montreal that his Major League career would truly take off. A key member of the Expos' rotation in 1994, when the team owned a six-game lead atop the National League East Division in August before a strike wiped out the rest of the season, Martinez would evolve into the club's ace. After registering 14 wins and a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts in 1995, he was selected to his first All-Star Game in 1996 when he recorded 13 victories and struck out 222 batters in 216 and two-thirds innings.
But it was his 1997 season that was one for the ages. In the midst of the steroid era, when offensive numbers were exploding, Martinez posted a 17-8 record and led the league with a 1.90 ERA. He also topped N.L. pitchers in complete games (13) and his 305 strikeouts set a single-season franchise record. As a result, he became the first and only Expos' pitcher to win the National League Cy Young Award.
During his acceptance speech, Martinez said the Montreal fans made him feel "special" during his four seasons (1994-97) with the Expos. And he remembers teammate and Hall of Famer Larry Walker "really making me feel comfortable."
Expos' manager Felipe Alou also welcomed him to the team by naming him a starter before he had even thrown a pitch for the team. "Felipe opened the door for me," he said. "He gave me the confidence I needed to develop myself into the player I became."
Martinez said he feels "thankful and grateful" to have represented Montreal and Canada in his playing career. "I'm extremely proud; I feel like I belong to Canada," he said. "Most of my success belongs to Canada. I love you Canada and I will always have you in my heart."
In all, Martinez pitched for five Major League teams. He won 219 games, was an eight-time all-star, and a three-time Cy Young winner. He retired in 2009.
Reliever shone in the Fall Classic
Selected in the first round (ninth overall) of the 1982 MLB draft by the Atlanta Braves, Duane Ward was traded to the Blue Jays for Doyle Alexander on July 6, 1986.
Ward became one of the Jays' most dependable middle and late-inning relievers in 1988, and remained in the role through the 1992 season when the Blue Jays won their first World Series. His pitching repertoire featured a lively, mid-90s fastball and a hard slider.
After Tom Henke departed via free agency following the 1992 season, Ward assumed the closer's role and excelled – topping the American League with a record 45 saves and 70 games finished in 1993, while allowing just 49 hits and striking out 97 batters in 71 and two-thirds innings.
For his efforts, he was selected to the American League all-star team and finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting. His 45 saves and 70 games finished remain single-season franchise records. His performance helped propel the Blue Jays to their second consecutive World Series title.
In 1992 and '93, Ward was at his best in the Fall Classic. In a combined eight World Series appearances, he posted a 3-0 record with a 1.13 ERA, while striking out 13 batters in eight innings and also registering two saves.
In total, in nine seasons with the Blue Jays (1986 to 1995), Ward appeared in 452 games, the second-most by a pitcher in franchise history. He is also second in saves (121) and games finished (266).
The New Mexico native said it was "numbing" when he was first informed he was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. "From the time I was a kid, I wanted to play Major League baseball," he said. A special memory was pitching his first big league game in Houston, with his parents in attendance.
Ward thanked all his Minor League pitching coaches. He said they don't get much recognition, buty they contribute so much to a player's career.
Ward also thanked Pat Gillick, Paul Beeston and the entire Blue Jays' organization "for giving me every opportunity to succeed in Major League baseball." He thanked the Toronto fans as well. "I had a love-hate relationship with the fans, but I think they still wanted me to have the baseball in my hands."