Paul MacDougall recalls Sydney native’s CFL career.
Football, you bet! For Canadian football fans, Sunday is the day you’ve been waiting for — the Grey Cup. It ranks up there with a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, the men and women’s curling championships, even the recent Jays World Series run. This year’s game, the 103rd, is being played in Winnipeg.
Fifty years ago, Winnipeg played Hamilton in the Grey Cup in Toronto and lost to the TigerCats in what’s been described as one of the windiest Grey Cup match-ups ever. Hamilton was helped to their victory by middle guard Marty Martinello, a Sydney lad who had been playing in the CFL for a few years by then.
Marty Martinello was one of nine children born to Felice and Rosina Martinello of Whitney Pier. Born in 1931, Martinello lived on Tupper and Henry streets and attended Villa Nova and Holy Redeemer boys schools. As a youngster he enjoyed skating and playing hockey and baseball with the other kids from the Pier. Life was good until things took a turn during the Second World War. Marty’s father was one of many innocent Italian men sent to the internment camp in Ontario in 1940 when Italy declared war against Britain.
My mother remembers her Italian father throwing out anything he brought from the old country for fear the authorities would haul him off to the camp as well. Even the homemade wine went down the sink. For those that got sent to the camp, like Felice Martinello, the days were long and many men passed the time whittling and carving. My mother has a set of salad tongs Felice Martinello sent home to my grandparents during this time and they’re an interesting ironic reminder to me of a strange period in Canadian history, hopefully not to be repeated.
Rather than return to Sydney after his release from internment, the elder Martinello moved his family to Hamilton. It was here Marty began playing football in high school. Though he wasn’t that big he continued to play in the local junior teams and by 1953, was called up to the Montreal Alouettes. He played in three Grey Cups with them from 1954 to 1956, coming up short in all three to the pretty well undefeatable Edmonton Eskimos.
After five years in Montreal he spent two on the West Coast with the fledgling B.C. Lions before returning east to play for the Argos in Toronto, earning berths on the Eastern All-Star team in 1960 and 1961. After five years with the Argos, he joined the Tiger-Cats returning full circle to his early days at the Cathedral Boys School in Hamilton. It was here in Hamilton in 1965 Martinello got his fourth shot at the Grey Cup and this time was successful.
With gusts up to 40 miles per hour during the “Wind Bowl” officials and coaches made an unprecedented punting rule change prior to the game. Once a returner touched a third down punted ball it was declared dead. Without this in place officials feared the wind would force third down conversions all day long and ruin the normal play of the game.
During Martinello’s football career there were no tackle or quarterback sack stats kept so there are few records available for him. CFLapedia does report a pair of interceptions and a couple of fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown in 1965 with Hamilton, the same year Hamilton defeated Winnipeg 22-16 to win the Grey Cup. Martinello retired in 1966 after fourteen years grinding it out the front lines of the CFL.
There are only a few CFL players who come from Nova Scotia and the province recognized Martinello for his long career and Grey Cup win by induction into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in 1986. He is also a member of the Cape Breton Sports Hall of Fame and the Nova Scotia Football Hall of Fame.
Martinello went on study metallurgy and business administration after his distinguished football career, eventually acquiring an MBA from McMaster University. He worked for years with Kent Steel and ended his career in 1996 retiring from the metals division of Intermetco Ltd. as vice-president. While working with them he often supplied Sydney Steel with many of his company’s products.
Marty Martinello of Whitney Pier won a Grey Cup with the Hamilton TigerCats in 1965. He played for the Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes, B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts in a career that spanned from 1954-66.