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.
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:
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:
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The Pecan Park Eagle