The Museum

A future objective of the Hometown Hero Project is to open a Joe DiMaggio Museum in Martinez. Theprincipal site for the museum being considered is the old Southern Pacific Railroad Depot. This historic building was first located here in 1876. The following year, the first passenger train passed through Martinez carrying Leland Stanford --- founder of Stanford University.

We are currently working closely with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and other museums to best understand all the things we need to consider in renovating the old depot. It is hoped that we can draw on the experience of these existing museums to establish a first-class, small museum worthy of a national icon the likes of Joe DiMaggio.

Initial plans are to share the depot site with a museum dedicated to the history of the Carquinez Straight, a narrow water passage between San Joaquin Rivers flowing to Suisun Bay and San Pablo Bay --- a northern extension of San Francisco Bay. By combining the two museums in the depot facility we can leverage artifacts and exhibits from both to draw people to the downtown Martinez area. The History of the Carquinez Strait Museum is an undertaking planned by the Martinez Historical Society.

The Statue

Rick Jones - written for the Martinez Gazette

The Hometown Hero Project, an initiative spearheaded by Martinez Councilwoman Lara DeLaney, plans to honor local hero Joe DiMaggio. A proposed centerpiece of the project is a DiMaggio sculpture.

At a recent council meeting Mario Chiodo, a world-renowned sculptor from Oakland, presented his vision of a DiMaggio statue and gave his background and experience in creating history-telling monuments.

"I thought it would be a prudent thing to show you what we do. Our main focus is to do history-telling monuments," Chiodo told the council. "My style is storytelling, not just a figure standing there."

Chiodo created the "Remember Them Memorial" in Oakland at the Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park.

The memorial was installed in 2011. The monument is a compilation of four massive sculptures that stand 33 feet tall and 110 feet long. Late author and civil rights leader Maya Angelou was part of the project.

Chiodo was commissioned by Lucas Films to recreate many of the well-known Star Wars creatures that had been sitting in storage since the first round of films premiered in the 1970s. Steven Spielberg commissioned Chiodo to sculpt the character E.T. when the original was lost in a fire.

A statue of baseball great Ralph Kiner was created by Chiodo, commissioned by the city of Alhambra. Chiodo is currently working on a women’s monument for Concord-Carondelet High among other projects.

"We bring in interns to help with the projects," Chiodo said. We also do something very few sculptors do. We feature a visually impaired wall, which allows the blind to understand what the project looks like."

Many of Chiodo’s sculptures are large, with pieces spanning up to 100 feet long and 40 feet high. The memorial in Oakland is the largest bronze sculpture in the western United States. "I have my style, but we will do whatever the client wants," he told the councilmembers.

Chiodo showed the council a few early, rough drawings of his vision of what a DiMaggio sculpture may look like.

"Joe DiMaggio is an epic figure. He is not just a baseball hero but he was a hero to American society during his playing years," Chiodo said. "To do justice, you have to tell the story and it’s a place that people are going to have to go to and seek out.

"He is arguably a world figure. It is my feeling it will serve him justice to tell the whole story – that he came from this immigrant family of very little means and look at what he ended up doing."

The Hometown Hero Project, which launched in November with a fundraiser, hopes to include an oral history project to capture the local memories of DiMaggio, a walking tour highlighting certain DiMaggio landmarks in Martinez, the creation of a DiMaggio statue, and murals welcoming Amtrak passengers to the home of Joe DiMaggio, DeLaney said.

Recently, organizers of the project had a conference call with three vice presidents of the Baseball Hall of Fame, who offered to assist with various resources for the museum and oral history project.

For more information on sculptor Mario Chiodo, please visit www.chiodoart.com and www.freedommarchofart.com.

Waters Storage Mural

An element of the Hometown Hero Project (HHP) is to create a mural welcoming travelers to Martinez the birthplace of Joe DiMaggio. A well-known community business, Waters Moving and Storage, has graciously offered their storage facility for the mural. A family owned and operated moving company, Waters has been a fixture in Martinez for over 37 years. Their warehouse is strategically located between the Amtrak rail lines and Interstate 680 leading into Martinez. This 150,000 cubic square foot warehouse, could accommodate a large mural display visible from both routes into the City. Next step for the HHP is to contract with a muralist.

Walking Tour

Future plans of the Hometown Hero Project include organizing a walking tour of sites with a Joe DiMaggio connection. The tour might begin at the site of the DiMaggio residence near downtown Martinez. There is a mural of Joe downtown as well as the DiMaggio Baseball Complex in the 150 acre Waterfront Park separated from downtown by the rail tracks. The park also home to several other recreational areas including bocce ball courts, a skateboard park, and 1200 seat amphitheater. Nearby is the John Muir Historical site. Muir made his home in Martinez.

Joe frequented the City later in life and was caught dining with Marilyn Monroe at Amatto’s on Ferry Street. The boat given him by the New York Yankees sat for years in the Martinez Marina. The boat is currently in the final stages of restoration by local volunteers and is the centerpiece of the planned Joe DiMaggio Museum where the tour might culminate. The historic Martinez downtown area provides tour participants several dining options and is home to several interesting antique shops.