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Council endorses statue proposal to honor Joe DiMaggio

Martinez Tribune

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Shortly after Mayor Rob Schroder and members of the Martinez City Council honored those who had restored the “Joltin’ Joe” boat that belonged to Martinez native son Joe DiMaggio, the panel agreed Wednesday night the city should seek out sites for statues that would illustrate phases of the baseball legend’s life.

Joe DiMaggio at-bat while Hank Erickson is catching, circa 1936. (NATIONAL CHICLE)
Joe DiMaggio at-bat while Hank Erickson is catching, circa 1936. (NATIONAL CHICLE)
There would be some challenges, Schroder said, because Martinez would need concurrence of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

In addition, Martinez may need some agreement with the East Bay Regional Park District, which has authority over portions of the local waterfront, including the horse arena used by the Martinez Horsemen’s Association, as well as the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), because another city goal is to obtain ferry service.

“Joe DiMaggio is a hometown hero,” Councilmember Lara DeLaney said. She said the Martinez Historical Society is assembling an application for a National Endowment for the Arts grant that could underwrite some of the statues’ costs.

Since DiMaggio was the son of a local Italian fisherman, one spot for a statue could be near an existing plaque at the Martinez Marina that recognizes the importance of the Italian commercial fishermen who were the ancestors of many families who still live in Martinez. Nino, Salvatore and Giuseppe DiMaggio, the latter of whom was Joe DiMaggio’s father, are listed on the plaque. That might be the vicinity of a statue honoring DiMaggio as a native son and his ties to the Italian fishing community that settled here.

A second statue that might be erected near the waterfront would acknowledge DiMaggio’s record-setting baseball career in New York, where in addition to “Joltin’ Joe,” he earned the nickname “Yankee Clipper,” because of his speed.

A third statue might be erected farther inland to illustrate DiMaggio’s post-baseball career, when he was considered “Gentleman Joe.”

Councilmember Debbie McKillop said she favored looking at sites, but worried that the project had no funding.

Picking up on McKillop’s concern that any decision Wednesday night would be premature, Councilmember AnaMarie Avila Farias asked whether the project was taking up too much of City employees’ time.

City Manager Rob Braulik said he couldn’t provide the number of hours employees already had worked on the project, but said City staff would need the council’s guidance if it were to proceed with talks with BCDC and other agencies to see if they would concur with the chosen sites.

He told the panel that the Martinez Historical Society, not City staff, was preparing grant applications, although staff involvement may increase once the project is underway.

“Staff time can be cut down by us deciding what we want to do,” Vice Mayor Mark Ross said. “It should be one cohesive effort.”

The council should decide sooner, rather than later, whether it wants to pursue the project, he said.

The council decided unanimously it wants in, and gave City employees the authority to “vet out” proposed sites.

DeLaney also urged the City to have “a letter of intent to dedicate these sites” for the purpose of erecting the statues, and asked that any agreement between Martinez and the sculptor come back for council approval.

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One comment

  1. It is about time Martinez is honoring their hometown hero. Joe has lots of relatives in Martinez who will benefit from the projects and keeping his memory and legacy alive. Bravo to all who are involved in making this happen and to the City Council to honor baseball’s best from their own city of Martinez.

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