Discover more from Bald Faced Truth by John Canzano
Canzano: The world lost a 'great dude'
Pete Martini is dead at the age of 43.
Pete Martini died on Tuesday. The long-time Salem Statesman Journal sports reporter lost his battle with cancer.
He was 43.
I’ve known Martini and his work for years. We’d messaged on social media and talked a few times about the state’s college teams, high school athletes and his AP Top 25 vote. Also, he told me about his cancer.
Two years ago Martini was diagnosed with four varieties of cancer. He went through six months of chemotherapy. He had an antibiotic treatment. There was a transfusion, a lengthy hospitalization, then more chemo. He’d missed some work amid the initial treatments, which he hated most of all.
In a radio interview we did last year Martini announced the cancer in his lungs was back. This time, Pete said, he’d continue to work while going through treatments.
“I can’t just go into hiding for another six months,” he said. “It’s just too hard on the psyche. I gotta be out here. I gotta be part of it. I gotta be doing things.”
Martini grew up in Salem. He graduated from Sprague High School, where he played football. Then, he went to college at the University of Oregon where he became a sportswriter for The Daily Emerald.
I won’t pretend to know Martini better than those who grew up with him or read his work every day. Like a lot of community journalists, he poured himself into his job. He loved his family, covering high school and college sports, and rooting for the Atlanta Braves. Pete told me his uncle had played high school ball against Braves’ legend Dale Murphy.
“And the Braves were on TV all the time when I was a kid,” he said.
I spoke with Anthony Gould this week about the death of Martini. Gould, a wide receiver at Oregon State, was a standout athlete at West Salem High School.
“Pete was a great dude,” Gould said.
I’ve heard that exact refrain more than once in the last couple of days when it comes to Martini. From his friends, his subjects and other journalists who worked with him.
Gould remembered being invited to the newspaper by Martini when he was in high school. The sports reporter gave the star athlete a tour and they worked on a project together.
“He loved what he did. And he always tried to help anyone,” Gould told me. “If you were in Salem and played high school sports, Pete wanted to cover you. It’s super sad news. He’ll be missed.”
When we hear someone died we ask: “When?”
Then maybe we go to their social-media accounts trying to make sense of the last few days of their life. Pete Martini’s interests were evident. His Twitter timeline served as a spotlight for our state’s sports scene. The final tweets of Martini’s life included local high school football score updates, days before Halloween.
I liked Martini.
I respected him, too.
He worked hard, spoke his mind, and took pride in the job. I scanned his Twitter account just before I wrote this column. I kept scrolling… and scrolling… looking for a mention of “cancer.” What I found before that were his thoughts on local athletes, his analysis of the Beavers and Ducks, and some measured wisdom about the AP Top-25 poll.
Cancer may have invaded his body, but Pete refused to let it consume him.
I heard a story from one of Martini’s close friends this week. Apparently Martini and two buddies had a daily group-message chat they titled “Sports Gurus.” That trio of friends debated daily sports issues and planned to turn it into a podcast once Pete got better. One of those friends reached out to let me know Pete was dead.
“I’m sad that won’t happen with him,” Nate Johnston told me.
In late August, Martini had publicly announced that there had been a health setback. It was his final update on the matter. The message was laced with optimism and finished with a sentence that won’t surprise a soul who worked alongside the guy. His enthusiasm for his craft masked the inevitability of his circumstance.
There were exactly 27 words between “rough news” and “I can’t wait to cover this fall sports season for the Statesman Journal…” because, well, that was Pete Martini.
Long-time Salem sportswriter Gary Horowitz told me of Martini: “I thoroughly enjoyed his friendship and working with him all those years.”
In the last few days, I’ve thought often about Martini. The news of his death hit like a bag of bricks. I hope his family knows how much he meant to local high school and college athletes. He lifted so many of them up with his work. And I hope his sister and parents realize how well regarded he was among his peers.
Pete Martini really was a great dude.
That provides a succinct way to sum up the impact of a person who gave so much of himself to so many. It doesn’t make his loss sting any less. But it’s the sort of thing we should tell the people around us while they’re still alive.
I appreciate all who read, support, subscribe and share this new, independent, endeavor with friends. If you’re not already a “paid” subscriber, please consider a subscription so you don’t miss a thing:
If you’d like to give a gift subscription to a friend or family member: