Flashback: Career minor leaguer “Oyster Joe” Martina in rare World Series appearance

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Oyster Joe Martina
John “Oyster Joe” Martina in 1957

New Orleans native John Martina is remembered more for his catchy nickname “Oyster Joe” than his pitching record in the majors. That’s because Martina spent 21 years in the minors, but only one in the big leagues. However, his season included a World Series appearance during an historic year for the Washington Senators franchise.

He spent the 1924 season with the Senators and was a member of the staff that featured future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson. The 34-year-old Martina had spent the previous 14 seasons in the minors, including three years with the New Orleans Pelicans for whom he won 56 games from 1921 to 1923.

Martina started 14 of his 24 appearances for the Senators and finished with a 6-8 record, while Johnson, Tom Zachary, and George Mogridge shouldered most of the workload in the starting rotation. The Senators wound up surging in late August to win the pennant over the vaunted New York Yankees. It was the Senators’ first World Series appearance.

Washington faced the New York Giants who were playing in their fourth World Series in four years. Martina got his opportunity to pitch in Game 3, when he entered the game in the seventh inning with the Senators trailing, 5-2. And who does he face? None other three future Hall of Famers—George Kelly, Bill Terry, and Hack Wilson. Martina rose to the occasion and retired them in order.

It was his only appearance in the Series, eventually won by the Senators in seven games.

Martina returned to New Orleans in 1925 and pitched for the Pelicans for four seasons, including two campaigns with 23 wins in each. He spent the last few years of his career in the low minors, eventually retiring in 1931 at age 41. Baseball-Reference.com shows that he won 322 games in the minors. It could have been more since there are two seasons where his detailed statistics are missing. In any case, he is acknowledged as the pitcher with the second-most wins in minor-league history, behind Bill Thomas.

Below is a complete list of New Orleans metro area players who played in one or more World Series.

Player High School Year(s) in World Series Team
Larry Gilbert Sr. Unknown 1914* Braves
John Martina Unknown 1924* Senators
Mel Ott McDonough-Jefferson 1933*, 1936, 1937 Giants
Howie Pollet Fortier 1942*, 1946* Cardinals
Lou Klein S. J. Peters 1943 Cardinals
Al Jurisich Warren Easton 1944* Cardinals
Jack Kramer S. J. Peters 1944 Browns
Connie Ryan Jesuit 1948 Braves
Putsy Caballero Jesuit 1950 Phillies
George Strickland S. J. Peters 1954 Indians
Rusty Staub Jesuit 1973 Mets
Will Clark Jesuit 1989 Giants
Gerald Williams East St. John 1999 Braves
Chad Gaudin Crescent City 2009* Yankees
Mike Fontenot Salmen 2010* Giants
Will Harris Slidell 2017*, 2019 Astros
Tanner Rainey St. Paul’s 2019* Nationals

 
Asterisks indicate team won the World Series that season.

Tampa Bay’s Aaron Loup (Hahnville High School) will likely be the next player from the area to play in the World Series against the Dodgers starting October 20.

 

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Richard Cuicchi

Richard Cuicchi

New Orleans baseball historian

Richard Cuicchi, Founder of the Metro New Orleans Area Baseball Player Database and a New Orleans area baseball historian, maintains TheTenthInning.com website. He also authored the book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives. He has contributed to numerous SABR-sponsored Bio Project and Games Project books.

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