“Oyster” Joe Martina – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
New Orleans Pelicans/MLB
New Orleans native John Joseph “Oyster Joe” Martina logged a 22-year professional pitching career as a fireballer with the New Orleans Pelicans (1921-23, 25-28) and multiple other minor league teams, as well as one season with the Washington Senators in the major leagues. His overall Pelicans record of 133-79 (.627) makes him the winningest pitcher in Pelicans history, including four 20-win seasons and 1,730 innings.
After leading the 1923 New Orleans Pelicans to their sixth Southern Association pennant with a record of 21 wins and 10 losses, Martina earned the attention of the Washington Senators and made his major league debut on April 19, 1924 at the tender age of 34. He went 6-8 on the season and threw a single perfect inning in game three of the 1924 World Series against the New York Giants which the Senators captured in seven games. While he only pitched one inning in the World Series, it is memorable in that the three batters he faced, and retired, all went onto the Baseball Hall of Fame: George “High Pockets” Kelly, Bill Terry and Hack Wilson.
After his one-year Major League stint, Martina returned to New Orleans for another four seasons helping them win two more Southern Association pennants. In 1927, at the age of 38, Martina appeared in 47 games and pitched 275 innings as he posted a 23-12 record to lead the Pelicans to a repeat as Southern Association champions.
“Martina had a live fastball, sharp curve and good control, but his greatest asset was his durability,” said longtime Pelicans manager Larry Gilbert. “I never remember ‘Oyster Joe’ having a sore arm. He was a fierce competitor, great team man and one of the best conditioned athletes I’ve ever known.”
Prior to New Orleans, Martina played 11 seasons of minor league ball, including winning 121 games in seven seasons with the Beaumont Oilers in the Texas League. He finished with a career minor-league mark of 349-277. He had seven 20-win seasons, including a 28-victory campaign in 1919.
Born on July 8, 1889, Martina was also inducted into the New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame (2008). He died on March 22, 1962 at the age of 72.