The classic neon “sculpture” says “Joe Marty’s,” complemented by a big new banner proclaiming, “Back in the game.”
Both signs perch above the 2.0 version of Joe Marty’s sports bar, with its polished concrete floors, industrial lighting, eight big-screen TVs and a museum’s worth of vintage photos and baseball memorabilia. It’s an homage to Sacramento baseball.
In the window is a poster that tells the story of how Sacramento-born (1913) Joseph Anton Marty became a local baseball legend. In brief, the talented athlete joined the San Francisco Seals in 1934 (one teammate was Joe DiMaggio), then moved to the Chicago Cubs and later to the Philadelphia Phillies, returning home in 1946 to play on Edmonds Field for the Sacramento Solons before retiring in 1952. (By the way, a “solon” is a legislator.)
Along the way, he opened his namesake bar on J Street in 1938, strategically relocating it in 1951 to Broadway, just down the street from the Solons’ home field and all those thirsty fans. Marty himself often tended bar and held court, gruffly charming a baseball-crazy town that treated him as a celebrity. Everybody who was anybody bellied up to his bar for a beer and a shot and a good story, including the Detroit Tigers’ Ty Cobb. If you got hungry, El Chico pizzeria was right next door.
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Marty died in 1984 and the bar degraded into a dive over the years. A kitchen fire in 2005 closed the joint, but baseball historian Alan O’Connor of Sacramento salvaged “98 percent of the baseball artifacts” that survived the smoke and water damage, he said. Many of them decorate the new bar.
Three years ago, Sacramento businessmen and friends Jack Morris and Devon Atlee came up with the idea of resuscitating the local landmark. We caught up with Morris at the bar-grill, which was slammed at 4 p.m. on a recent Friday.
Q: What led to bringing back a piece of Sacramento history?
A: Devon and I are both from Land Park, so pretty much we did it for the neighborhood. We were watching a Giants game with friends and someone said, “Joe Marty’s has been empty forever; someone should open it again.” We said, “Maybe it should be us.”
Q: What was the process?
A: It took two years just to get the lease signed. Then there were sewer and permit issues. Three months ago this was an empty shell, with no plumbing or electricity. We worked with an architect, a contractor, a decorator and the Sacramento Historical Society. The only things original are the neon sign and the brickwork out front. The awning is about seven years old.
Q: How’s the turnout been?
A: So far, everyone seems happy with what we’ve done. Everyone’s got a story to tell about (hanging out) here, or about their grandfather’s days of playing with the Solons. It’s a big deal to all of us.
Q: The walls are covered with copies of original photos from Sacramento’s baseball glory days.
A: We got all the pictures (and other memorabilia) from Alan O’Connor, and we’re so grateful. He contacted us and said, “I know everything about Joe Marty, can I get involved?” (O’Connor explained later, “I had 90 photos just of Joe Marty, and they had zero.”)
Q: What about the lunch-dinner menu?
A: It was set up by Scott Leysath, (the host of) “The Sporting Chef” on the Sportsman Channel. He made it simple to start with, but after the first of the year we’ll expand it. We’ll possibly have breakfast on weekends and put more on the smoker (beyond pork shoulder) to include ribs, brisket and tri-tip.
Q: What’s the best seller?
A: The Marty Burger.
1500 Broadway, Sacramento; 916-382-9022; www.gojoemartys.com