When I was a kid, growing up in Sacramento, I used to often visit a baseball card shop downtown. It was two doors over from a building whose sign was a large, glowing baseball with the words, “Joe Marty’s” emblazoned over it. I used to wonder what the place was. As a baseball card junkie (I had a few thousand cards at one point), the ball caught my eye and as a kid, I once went in, thinking it maybe was a card shop. The swaying drunks I encountered let me know otherwise. Joe Marty’s was a bar.
Eventually, I learned Joe Marty had, in fact, been a real person, a ballplayer at that. My senior year of high school, I did my final project on an old Pacific Coast League team that had played in my hometown, the Sacramento Solons. As it turned out, Marty played for and managed the Solons back in the 1940s and ’50s. Before that, he played in the major leagues, appearing with the Chicago Cubs in the 1938 World Series. Injuries robbed him of a long big league career, though as a young man, he was once considered a better prospect than Joe DiMaggio. The two came up together in the PCL with the San Francisco Seals and while DiMaggio missed the 1934 season with a career-threatening injury, Marty went to the Cubs for a large price. In the end, though, as one old-timer told me, Marty returned to Sacramento, his hometown, and became his bar’s own best customer. He died in 1984 at the age of 71.
Eventually, I drank in Joe Marty’s bar once or twice. It had the coolest old black-and-white photos of famous players. Sadly, fire gutted the place in 2005. While the photos were reportedly saved from destruction, the bar hasn’t been open since.