In the spring of 1991, Ramon Martinez was pretty much on top of the (baseball) world.

After all, he was coming off a 20-6, 2.92 ERA showing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in his first full big league season, a performance that left him in second place in balloting for the 1990 National League Cy Young Award (behind Doug Drabek, and with apologies to Frank Viola).

Martinez also celebrated a birthday just before the ‘91 season began — his 23rd.

And so, with youth and talent and a strong team on his side, the slender young right-hander set off into a future that looked limitlessly bright.

But Ramon didn’t get to enjoy his new spotlight for long before he had some company, in the form of a shadow of a rumor of a whisper of a promise, all courtesy of a young man hardly anyone knew anything about.

“His brother is even better!” was the sort of familiar refrain that accompanied that limelight crowding.

And Ramon’s brother?

It was this guy …

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

Yes, even as Ramon embarked on the follow-up campaign to his breakout, 19-year-old Pedro Martinez began his own assent up the Dodgers chain.

And, let me tell you, it was one break-neck ride!

After an 8-3, 3.62 showing at rookie ball in 1990, Pedro spent the summer of 1991 at San Antonio, Bakersfield, and Albuquerque, a sort of seesaw ride from Double-A to High-A to Triple-A.

By the end of the season, Pedro had compiled an 18-8 record with a 2.28 ERA and 192 strikeouts (against 66 walks) in 177 and a third innings, an apt preview of the stinginess and dominance to come over the next two decades.

In the meantime, Ramon regressed a bit, as humans are apt to do, posting a 17-13 record and 3.27 ERA with worse strikeout and walk rates than in 1990, along with pitching fewer innings.

The whispers got louder — Pedro was younger, even more slight of build, had nastier stuff, with better control, than big brother Ramon.

The spotlight grew cozier with each Pedro start, moving the brothers closer and closer to a big league rendezvous.

And then, late in the 1991 season, more than a year before Pedro would finally debut in Chavez Ravine, Upper Deck hastened the Martinez reunion in Dodger Blue with the issue of their Final Edition set.

There, at #2F, was the only “true” Pedro Martinez in the land — that’s the one way up there (^), the one stamped as “Minor League Diamond Skills.”

Suddenly, while collectors were wondering whether the 1990 Upper Deck Ramon Martinez RC was still a good buy or not, they had a shiny new toy to funnel their Dodger dollars into.

As it turned out, Ramon had pretty much peaked by the time Pedro’s rookie card hit the hobby, though he did manage a star-level run in the mid-1990s.

Pedro, of course, was just getting warmed up, eventually turning in one of the most amazing pitching careers most of us have ever — or will ever — witnessed unfold.

All the whispers were true, and today, almost all of the Martinez spotlight is his alone.

Also today, that 1991 UD Final Edition card of his sells for about $15 in PSA 9 condition and $100 or more in PSA 10 — maybe not what you’d expect for the RC of a living legend in today’s market, but it’s tough for any pasteboard from the Junk Wax Era to top triple digits.

And, no matter who you are, the next “next” is always lurking there in the shadows.

Just ask Ramon Martinez.

Want to see a video version of this article?

1991 Upper Deck - #347 Cal Ripken

End Date: Friday 07/12/2024 14:32:42 EDT
Buy it now | Add to watch list

1991 Upper Deck Final Edition #2F Pedro Martinez PSA 8

End Date: Friday 07/12/2024 11:16:02 EDT
Buy it now | Add to watch list

1991 Upper Deck #44 Michael Jordan

End Date: Thursday 07/11/2024 16:16:28 EDT
Buy it now | Add to watch list