Remember Anita Martini….

Anita Martini
Media Reporter/Analyst
Texas Baseball Hall of Fame
2007
Art by Opie Otterstad

 

Although we never met, I was bedazzled by her beauty, her class, and her baseball mind and moxie from the time I first heard her easy-to-hear voice, floating through the local Houston radio and television coverage of baseball from the the mid 1960s into the early 1970s.

Where did this Galveston “girl” really come from? She knew deep parts of baseball lore that none of my then world of male contacts knew at all. Hell, I may as well say it. – She often knew more about certain aspects of baseball history, especially if those things had anything to do with the New York Yankees, than even I knew – and that was back in my ego salad days – when a beautiful age contemporary girl (type) wasn’t supposed to know more about baseball than a dedicated male former kid player and history nerd like me.

Yeah, I know. I know now. There was a time in the days of my youthful arrogance when that sort of thing was hard to admit. We had been so culture-slammed with the notion of “guy things” in separation from “girl things” as we were growing up in the post World War II years, that we often simply did what we could to avoid conversations that might reveal the presence of superior knowledge in a girl – or even differences in opinion from our own – whenever a brash girl started talking about something that was really and truly an anointed “guy thing.”

I was lucky. I snapped pretty quickly to the realization that this old “guy thing/girl thing” assignment was just another of those tough rules that a more fundamentally sexist society came up with years ago as a way of trying to steer people in narrow ways about what we have to do to be OK as men and women. It was conclusively Grade A malarkey to the better goal of teaching all young people to pursue the dreams that are honestly available to all of them as individuals.

Anita Martini often declared that she wasn’t into sports media work to be the first woman to do anything, and that she was simply out to be the best she could be at whatever she did. In reality, both things happened. And both were true.

On October 1, 1974, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros, 8-5, at the Astrodome, clinching the NL West title. After the game, thanks to the work of Dodgers Manager Walt Alston, Coach Tommy Lasorda and Center Fielder Jimmy Wynn, Anita Martini became the first female reporter in all of history to be invited into an MLB clubhouse post-game press conference – ever. Furthermore, the Dodger players were given strict instructions by Lasorda to be respectful of Anita and to let her do her job.

It was the first footstep of a galloping horse of change in the history of women covering baseball as media people. And it was a step that Anita Martini handled like the champion she always was.

“Anita Martini was definitely the ‘Jackie Robinson’ of female reporters when it came to locker room press conferences,” Jimmy Wynn has said many times since that day. And you know what? Former Dodger Jimmy Wynn was right about that day. Jimmy Wynn even served as the guy that instigator Lasorda sent barreling out of the Dodger clubhouse to find and bring Anita Martini back inside for this groundbreaking moment. Even though I wasn’t there to eyewitness it, a story listener’s mind movie plays on in my head.

A smiling Dodger road-uniformed Jimmy Wynn catches up to a strolling unaware Anita Martini on one of the nearby concourses. Out of our earshot, the smiling, now also moving  rapidly lips of Mr. Wynn have managed to generate a smile and an up-and-down cheerful raising of her arms in the otherwise motionless posture of a jubilant Anita Martini. It’s only a moment. But it’s a moment that shall last forever. In my movie mind, Jimmy takes Anita by the hand and the two of them jog happily back to an inner door and disappear from public view for her date with destiny. And the history of Anita Martini and women media in baseball is changed.

Forever.

It’s just too bad that Anita Martini had to leave us so early in a beautiful game.

Anita Martini died on Saturday July 10, 1993 after a long tough battle with brain cancer. She was only 54, but her relatively short stay among us left a rather large impression upon the future of women in sports media, doing the game of baseball, especially  – and doing it so very well.

In 2007, during my last year as a member of the Board, I’m proud to say that we inducted Anita Martini into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame for her career media courage, quality and performance in behalf of our favorite sport – the great game of baseball. No matter what. And no matter how much she downplayed the importance of her pioneering. She will always be the first female to do a live post-game locker room interview in a regular season MLB game – just as she always shall be one of the best reporters many of us have ever seen or heard on game coverage.

For those of you planning to attend “An Afternoon with Lisa Nehus Saxon” at the Baseball Reliquary program scheduled for 2:00 PM, this coming Saturday, March 18, 2017, here’s the program schedule:

http://www.baseballreliquary.org/2017/01/afternoon-lisa-nehus-saxon-march-18-2017-pasadena-ca/

Please show up to honor Lisa Nehus Saxon, another of baseball’s female heroes – and pass along this link on Anita Martini to others who need to hear more of her contributions, as well:

___________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

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6 Responses to “Remember Anita Martini….”

  1. Fred Soland Says:

    Bill, I knew Anita and Nelda Pena and Mike Edmunds well from the early days of Rotissorie Baseball (Now days referred to as fantasy baseball generically). I got to know her as a person, and got to be close to her. I was invited to her celebrity roast, which I attended along with many celebrities of the time in the Houston sports world. When I got to the event, Anita grabbed me and said she wanted to introduce me to someone special. She walked me over to a table and said she wanted to introduce me to her college roommate, Dawn Wells…..yes THAT Dawn Wells…none other than MaryAnne Sommers herself. Dawn was very sweet and we talked quite a while that night. I still speak to her occasionally and we reminisce about Anita, and what a genuinely fine lady who was fun to be around, but wouldn’t take crap off of anyone. I could tell you many stories about her, but we will have to save those discussions for a personal visit. Unfortunately, I tell stories much better than I type.

    Anita was a pioneer, as was Nelda Pena. Oh, and for the record, I won the Rotissorie League all three years it was played. But then again, I also played the boys at the Houston Chronicle….Harry Shattuck, Neil Holfeld, David Barron, Fred Faour, Neal Farmer and a dearth of others….and I beat them regularly too.. She was in good company, and she never could understand how I was always the one riding the lightning.

  2. Wayne Roberts Says:

    Excellent post

  3. gregclucas Says:

    Little known fact but Anita was being discussed by the folks who ran KTXH-TV 20 more than 35 years ago to be hired as the analyst for Houston Rocket basketball. I was the new hire as the play by play announcer starting in the 1982-83 season and was asked how I would feel about having a female partner? After they explained to me who she was (I was coming over from San Antonio and did not know of her and being totally confident in my own abilities to run the show) I thought the idea proposed by the Ch20 leadership had merit.

    It would break a glass ceiling for a qualified female sports announcer and secondly give the Rocket telecasts some national coverage.

    Alas, the idea was never brought to fruition. I was never sure who decided against making the move, but the Rockets did have right of refusal. The veteran sportscaster Barry Warner was hired to fill the second chair for road telecasts and former Rocket star guard Mike Newlin worked the role on home games for the HSE cable telecasts. I totally enjoyed working with those two very different personalities for the three years I did PBP for Rocket basketball on TV, but did wonder at times–especially after I got to know Anita a little bit –how things would have worked with her in a seat at courtside.

    Anita might have not worked at all well in the role and far better at her speciality as an interviewer and talk show host. But we never got a chance to know.

    Had she come along just a few years later roles were being created for women on telecasts. The spots that Patti Smith and now even more so Julia Morales hold in Houston are local examples, but ladies in many other cities are being given a chance to demonstrate their knowledge in sports and not just their femininity. Anita knew baseball. She would have been one of the best all time and fully able to be a real sideline commentator and not just a reporter/interviewer.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Greg – My money would have been on you and Anita becoming a smash hit together as a broadcast team. The public loved you both from limited exposure and that only grew over time for each of you individually. The synergy of watching two bright and lovable people working as a team for a regular season together simply wreaks with the cachet of another great “might have been” pairing of people in sports broadcasting history. It wasn’t meant to be, but that’s OK. Sometimes it’s enough to just vote for what appears to be the best bet on a question of past theoretical outcome possibilities. – Finally, let me put it this way. – I can’t think of any other male contemporary out there at the time who could have been a better pairing for Anita Martini than you in this next break in a glass ceiling.

  4. David Munger Says:

    Great article Bill. What impressed me the most about Anita Martina is the fact she knew her Sports, she was pre Google and actually had to “work for her stories”. I remember her on the radio and she could get as Red Neck as any of the callers that challenged her . That Galveston Lady had no fear of The Glass Ceiling.

  5. firebird65 Says:

    I remember listening to her sports talk show on KPRC-AM with Mike Edmonds back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They actually talked sports and kept listeners informed, instead of riled up and entertained, as today’s shock jocks do. No “takes,” just facts and good conversation. Nice contrast, and one that is sorely missed.

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