BOSTON -- The five pitchers to get into Cooperstown the past two seasons got nothing on White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing.
McEwing had success against against Pedro Martinez -- who had his number retired by the Red Sox on both Tuesday and Wednesday -- Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, even John Smoltz, all of whom have been inducted into the Hall of Fame in the last year. A career .251 hitter, McEwing’s first major league knock came against Johnson on Sept. 12, 1998 in the first game the utility man ever started.
From there, McEwing would hit .293 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in 99 at-bats against the future HOFers.
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“Tony (LaRussa) said ‘I’m going to let you get your first start and your first hit against Randy Johnson,’ ” McEwing said. “It was a little motivation and the fact that he had confidence in me to go out there -- he was probably trying to motivate me -- and I always felt in the box against him. I was able to see him pretty well.”
McEwing went 11-for-44 against Johnson with five doubles and a homer.
His advice for how to face Johnson, which would now only apply to any players who have access to a time machine: “Everything was hard so you tried to divide up the plate in half,” McEwing said. “I tried to keep everything on the inner-half. Anything away I’d let him have.”
“You can’t put anything on it, but it was a guy who I saw well.”
The Big Unit wasn’t the only one. McEwing went 8-for-23 (.348) with two homers against Glavine and hit .318 against Maddux. McEwing’s least success came against Smoltz, but as he pointed out, the one hit in seven at-bats was a homer.
McEwing only faced Martinez once in 2000 -- he went 2-for-3 -- but always admired the wiry right-hander on the field and off it.
“One of the most dominant pitchers in the game,” McEwing said. “He was somebody you enjoyed watching every time you took the mound. It had a chance to be something really special and there’s not too many pitchers or players in the history of this game that you sit and go, ‘He could do something really, really special for the game.’ Three above pitches he could throw for a strike at any time and could dominate a game. What he did for this game and for the Dominican Republic is pretty special.”