Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  Martin, John Leonard Roosevelt

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Known as the "heart and soul" of the St. Louis Cardinals "Gashouse Gang," John L. R. "Pepper" Martin was born in Temple, Oklahoma, on February 29, 1904. He began his baseball career in 1922 with Oklahoma City sandlot teams. To make a living he sold drinks at a ballpark and drove a "ballyhoo wagon" that advertised the city's minor league games. He later played for Ardmore. In 1924 he signed his first professional contract, agreeing to play for Guthrie, in the Oklahoma State League, for $124 a month.

From 1928 through 1944 he played second base for the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League. Famous for his belly-flop slides, he led the National League in stolen bases and runs scored in each of three seasons. Once asked, "Where did you learn to run the way you do?" he replied, "Well, Sir, I grew up in Oklahoma, and once you start runnin' out there there ain't nothin' to stop you."

Martin's .418 career World Series batting average is the highest among players with fifty or more at-bats. He dominated the 1931 World Series, batting .500, stealing five bases, and hammering five extra-base hits. He also became a national celebrity as the subject of a serial titled "The Life of Pepper Martin," which regularly appeared in newspapers nationwide. Martin played for the Cardinals through 1944 and then for Havana's team in the International League before retiring in the 1950s. After his major league career Martin coached and did radio play-by-play for the Tulsa Oilers in the early 1960s. He died in McAlester, Oklahoma, on March 5, 1965.

Bob Burke


Bob Burke, Kenny Franks, and Royse Parr, Glory Days of Summer: The History of Baseball in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1999).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Bob Burke, “Martin, John Leonard Roosevelt,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=MA032.

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.