COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - On the surface, this Hall of Fame induction looks as if it has very little to do with the Yankees and Mets, but you often can't see gold at the surface. Just looking at the class that was enshrined Sunday was one huge reminder how bright New York's new Golden Age really was.
This is comforting for those of us who are too young to remember the era of Willie, Mickey and the Duke, which has been called New York's Golden Age. In retrospect, we can say we've had one of our own, thank you very much. Starting in 1995 and going through 2009, the Yankees often were on top of the world or wondering why they weren't, and the Mets had a revival or two.
All of this came to mind at the Hall of Fame weekend, where some old protagonists and antagonists were honored, refreshing our memories -- some good for the home side, some not so good, but vivid all the way.
Hitting leadoff for the Class of 2015 was Craig Biggio, who always gave New Yorkers someone extra to root for, given that he grew up on Long Island and played college ball in New Jersey.
Then there was Randy Johnson, who won Game 3 against the Yankees as a starter in the 1995 American League Division Series and won Game 5 in relief, going the final three unforgettable innings for the Mariners. That was only a preview for what he would do to the Yankees in the World Series for the Diamondbacks six years later. He won Game 6 as a starter and won Game 7 as a reliever the next night. He ultimately became a Yankee and now believes those seasons were more fun than they seemed at the time.
John Smoltz, Class of 2015, was class personified for the Braves in the 1990s. He challenged the Yankees, not totally successfully, and bedeviled the Mets. He won Game 1 of the 1996 World Series and lost Game 5, 1-0, despite getting 10 strikeouts. He saved Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Mets in 1999, started Game 4 and was torched as a reliever in Game 6. The Braves still won that game and the series, which put him in position to lose a deciding Game 4 to the Yankees.
But nobody in this class had as big a New York role as Pedro Martinez. He ushered in a renaissance in Boston, which sent the heated rivalry off the thermonuclear chart. In 2003, he was kept in ALCS Game 7 at Yankee Stadium too long. In 2004, he made a mostly ceremonial appearance in ALCS Game 7 on the same mound, and the Red Sox went on to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
The mind's eye still can see his strange confrontation with Don Zimmer. "It wasn't a fight," Martinez said Saturday. "Zim and I both had respect for the game, the same way." If there is a thing as the "mind's ear," it can hear Martinez saying in exasperation after a 2004 loss, "I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.''
Another time, he grew tired of talking about the Yankees and said, "I don't believe in damn curses. Wake up the Bambino and let me face him. I'll drill him in the [expletive]."
No hard feelings. He's a teammate of Babe Ruth now, in the Hall of Fame plaque room. "I had the opportunity to go over to his statue. I did apologize for the comments I made that day," he said. "I said those things because I didn't believe in curses, but I got to really appreciate who the Bambino was and how good he was for people and society and for baseball. I am his teammate. He forgave me for what I said."
He does not have to apologize to anyone for his effort with the Mets, whom he gave new life when he arrived in 2005. During his news conference Saturday, he said, "Believe it or not, I was a Met, and I'm proud of it."
To paraphrase a line from "Seinfeld," a TV show popular during that terrific era, "It was gold, Pedro, gold."