If it’s the good ol’ days you’re looking for, the golden age of sports at Santa Fe High came during a time of disco, bell-bottom jeans and shag carpeting.
Between 1974 and 1980, the city’s flagship school was an athletic powerhouse on New Mexico’s biggest stage. Various teams combined to win 14 team state championships and numerous individual titles in sports like track, golf and wrestling. Smack in the middle of it was the magical 1977 season of the Demons baseball program coached by Santa Fe native Joe Jerry Martinez.
Decked out in navy blue polyester uniforms with gold pinstripes and shin-high stirrups, the Demons practiced and played at Fort Marcy Ballpark with Martinez, a man who commanded respect and lived by a strict by-the-book mentality, calling all the shots.
They’d made the state finals in 1972 and reached the semifinals in ’74, but everything came together the same month Star Wars hit theaters and gas prices hovered right around 65 cents a gallon.
It remains the only baseball championship in school history.
“The Demons were good at everything back then, and that year, baseball was the thing,” said Anthony Martinez, a sophomore role player that season and one of seven children raised by Joe Jerry and Louisa Martinez.
All but one of the Martinezes graduated from Santa Fe High, starting with the eldest, Maggie Pettigrew and Dave Martinez, continuing with Anthony Martinez, Joanne Romero, Andrew Martinez and then Matt Martinez. The youngest, Amy Hinkle, graduated from Capital High in 1994.
Joe Jerry Martinez died June 11, barely seven weeks shy of his 88th birthday. He spent 17 years as the Demons’ baseball coach, 31 teaching driver’s ed in the Santa Fe Public Schools system, 35 in the military and more than 65 as Louisa’s devoted husband.
In between were countless happy moments for their kids and grandkids.
There are 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren in the family.
“My dad would have people come up to him at the store and thank him for having such a positive impact on their lives, standing there talking to him like he made them who they were,” recalled Matt Martinez. “To me they were strangers, but to him they were former students, people he helped along the way. It was like, ‘Wow, what my dad’s doing is making a difference.’ It has stuck with me my entire life.”
Five of Joe Jerry Martinez’s seven kids went on to earn master’s degrees. Matt Martinez coached baseball at Capital for five years, with his dad serving as an assistant coach.
“Family get-togethers have always been a little loud because grandpa’s house isn’t that big,” said Jonelle Martinez, one of his grandchildren, who recently spent four years in sports administration at St. Michael’s High School.
“He was a true Renaissance man,” she said. “He could do everything he set his mind to and did it all well. … He was someone to aspire to be. He was the toughest man I knew, instilled hard work and respectfulness with all of us but also knew how to have fun and enjoy life.”
Before Louisa, before coaching and long before any of his kids, Joe Jerry Martinez was one of 10 family members raised in a humble home on Rosario Hill. All the boys in the family adopted a similar flat-top haircut that led to a universal nickname of “Cepillo,” the Spanish word for “brush.”
“They were the Cepillos of Rosario Hill,” Matt Martinez said. “The last few years of his life, I’d go over every two or three weeks and cut his hair. He did love that look.”
“Everyone called Joe ‘Cepillo,’ ” said Tom Manning, a former coach at Santa Fe High and now the longtime athletic director at St. Michael’s. “He was the nicest guy. He worked so hard for the school and the kids and was like a lot of the coaches we had back then. They never seemed to go home because they were always, always at practice or at school.”
Santa Fe High’s glory days included the school’s lone state titles in boys basketball (1978) and football (1979), as well as championships in volleyball (1978), golf (1976), eight combined blue trophies in cross country and one in drill.
Dennis Casados taught driver’s ed alongside Joe Jerry Martinez and later served as Santa Fe High’s athletic director the year Joe Jerry Martinez retired. His final year as the Demons’ head coach was the same year the school opened its on-campus baseball facility — one many people believe should bear Joe Jerry’s name.
“He was a consummate educator and coach, a man who taught basics and fundamentals his entire career,” Casados said. “His players knew who was in charge. They knew when to take a pitch, when to hit away, bunt, steal, hit a cutoff man and all the little things that proved to be big in 1977. Never in Joe’s 31 years teaching and coaching did he ever place personal fame and recognition over this students and athletes. The city of Santa Fe and [SFPS] have lost a pillar in the community with his passing.”
Encapsulating an 87-year life that touched so many is the challenge his son Anthony Martinez faces. He’ll deliver his dad’s eulogy Monday morning at St. Anne Catholic Church. He went over a few talking points Friday, about how his dad never left a stranded motorist on the side of the road, how he’d help family members build homes and how he perfected his famous apple bread — a recipe since handed down to his son Matt Martinez.
“Delicious red,” Anthony Martinez said. “He’d even take the peels from the skin and make little flowers he’d bake into the top.”
It was that attention to detail that defined Joe Jerry Matinez’s life. His style is what people nowadays would call old school: He demanded discipline, believed respect was earned through work ethic and the understanding of consequences, and held firm to the idea that persistence through doing the little things is what won the race.
“One of my dad’s mantras was there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and if you’re going to do something, you better do it to the best of your abilities,” Anthony Martinez said. “That’s the way he taught, how he raised his family, how he coached and treated his friends. It was never a job for him. Baseball was his hobby, and life is what he was passionate about.”
One of Anthony Martinez’s fondest memories was sharing his dad’s apple bread with his Demons teammates prior to the 1977 state championship game, then having his dad bring a fresh batch to Isotopes Park 30 years later when Anthony was an assistant coach at Rio Rancho High School and his son Zach was a member of the Rams team that beat Las Cruces Mayfield for the state title.
The three of them stood shoulder to shoulder for a photo on the field after the game. That picture still hangs in the Rio Rancho baseball office near head coach Ron Murphy’s desk.
“I know people might remember my dad for everything he did as a coach,” Anthony Martinez said, “but to my entire family, he was so much more than that. He was more than our dad. He was more than a teacher. He was larger than life in so many ways and, really, that’s the message I’ll try to pass along on Monday.”