Billy Martin

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For other people known by this name, see Billy Martin (disambiguation)

Alfred Manuel "Billy" Martin (May 16, 1928December 25, 1989) was an American second baseman and manager in Major League Baseball who was best known as the manager of the New York Yankees five different times. He won two American League championships and the 1977 World Series as their manager, and led four different AL teams to division championships..

Martin was known for his ability to win with any team, and for arguing animatedly with umpires, including a widely parodied routine in which he kicked dust on their feet, but he was criticized for not getting along with veteran players, burning out young pitchers, and drinking too much.


[edit] Early life

Billy Martin was born to Joan and Alfred Martin in Berkeley, California. His father was of Portuguese ancestry,[1] his mother of Italian ancestry.[citation needed] Alfred's infidelities with University of California coeds soon led to their separation, and Billy was raised by his mother, who doted on her son, frequently calling him "bello," or "beautiful" in Italian. This was the origin of his nickname "Billy."

Billy grew up playing baseball at a city park across the street from his home, James Kenney Park. Baseball pro and fellow Berkeley native Augie Galan lived nearby and would bring some of his professional friends to James Kenney Park in the off-season to practice. Kids in the neighborhoood, including Martin, would come by to watch and learn.

While attending Berkeley High School, Billy tried out for and began playing for the Oakland Junior Oaks, affiliated with the Pacific Coast League's Oakland Oaks club. After graduation, Billy was signed to the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League, playing for that team in 1948 and 1949. Martin played for Casey Stengel who was the manager of the Oakland Oaks in 1948. Stengel admired his aggressive play. When Stengel became manager in New York, he had the Yankees obtain Martin.

[edit] Playing career

He started his major league career in 1950 as a second baseman for the Yankees. As a player, Martin was known for making clutch plays.

In 1953 Martin had career highs in home runs (15), RBIs (75), doubles (24), triples (6), and times hit by pitch (6).

He was the MVP of the 1953 World Series, as he batted .500 with a .958 slugging percentage.

He was an All-Star in 1956. In 1958 he led the league in sacrifice hits, with 13.

Martin retired in 1961 with a career batting average of .257. He hit .333 in 28 World Series games for the Yankees.

[edit] Fights

Martin was also known for partying hard. The Yankees traded him in 1957, a month after a group of Yankees met at the famous Copacabana nightclub to celebrate Martin's 29th birthday. The party ended in a brawl, and general manager George Weiss, believing Martin's nightlife was a bad influence on teammates Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle, sent him to the Kansas City Athletics.

On August 4, 1960, Martin, then playing for the Cincinnati Reds, charged the mound in the second inning after receiving a brushback pitch from Chicago Cubs pitcher Jim Brewer. Martin threw his bat at Brewer, who picked up the bat and started to hand it to Martin as he approached. Martin punched Brewer in the right eye, breaking his cheekbone. Brewer was hospitalized for two months, and Martin served a five-day suspension. The Cubs sued Martin for $1 million for the loss of Brewer's services. While the Cubs dropped their case, Brewer pursued his, and in 1969, a judge ordered Martin to pay $10,000 in damages. When informed of the judgment by the press, Billy asked sarcastically, "How do they want it? Cash or check?"

Martin's fights as a player also included bouts with Jimmy Piersall, Clint Courtney (twice), Matt Batts, and Tommy Lasorda.

[edit] Managing career

Martin bounced around after his 1957 trade to Kansas City. During the last 4½ years of his playing career, he played for the A's, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Reds, Milwaukee Braves and Minnesota Twins.

Martin spent eight years (1962-69) in the Minnesota organization after his retirement as a player. He was a scout from 1962-64, the third-base coach of the Twins from 1965 through mid-June 1968, and manager of their AAA affiliate, the Denver Bears, for the last half of the 1968 campaign. He succeeded Cal Ermer as Minnesota's big-league manager following the '68 season.

In 1969, Martin's only season as manager of the Twins, he won a division championship in his first season. He was fired after the season following a fight with one of his pitchers, Dave Boswell, and spent the 1970 season out of baseball.

Martin managed the Tigers from 1971 to 1973, taking the team to first place in 1972 but was fired in 1973 for ordering his pitchers to throw at batters.

He then moved to the Texas Rangers, where he took the club from last place to second place in 1974, but was fired in 1975.

He returned to the Yankees for the first of his managerial stints in 1975, and took the Yankees to the World Series in 1976 and 1977, winning the 1977 World Series. He feuded publicly with both Yankee owner George Steinbrenner and star outfielder Reggie Jackson. He briefly resigned in 1978 after telling reporters, "They deserve each other. One's a born liar [Jackson], and the other's convicted [Steinbrenner]" (Martin was referring to Steinbrenner's conviction for making illegal donations to Richard Nixon's 1972 election campaign). He returned in 1979, only to be fired after a fight with a marshmallow salesman.

Martin resurfaced with the Oakland Athletics, where he perfected a style of play that became known as "Billyball." He won the Western Division title in the split season of 1981, swept the Royals in the special division series, and then met up with the Yankees in the 1981 ALCS where his A's were swept by the Yankees. Although his early success with the A's led to his designation as the club's general manager — giving him control over the baseball operations of the entire Oakland organization — in 1981, Martin was fired from both positions when the 1982 Athletics plummeted to a 68-94 record. Martin had overused Oakland's young pitchers and they all developed sore arms. He returned to the New York Yankees in 1983, 1985, and 1988, but never for more than one full season. During his years as a major league manager, Art Fowler usually served as his pitching coach.

[edit] Other fights

On September 22, 1985, he fought one of his pitchers, Ed Whitson, who broke one of Billy Martin's arms. He was the perfect short-term manager as his competitive fire and daring tactics won over fans, management, and players. This love affair was always brief, especially with the players and management, as his paranoid disdain for authority figures as well as players who dared disagree with him or did not reflect his fiery temperament, were bound to create clubhouse tension and organizational turmoil.

Martin's sparring opponents as a manager also included two traveling secretaries (Minnesota's Howard Fox and Texas' Burt Hawkins) in a fight outside of Howard Wong's in Bloomington, MN; Jack Sears, a fan outside Tiger Stadium; a Chicago cab driver who preferred soccer to baseball; sportswriter Ray Hagar, in a Reno casino; marshmallow salesman Joseph Cooper; two bar patrons, in Anaheim and in Baltimore; and two bouncers in an Arlington topless bar.

[edit] Honors

On August 10, 1986, the Yankees retired his uniform number 1 and dedicated a plaque in his honor for Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The plaque contains the words, "There has never been a greater competitor than Billy." Martin told the crowd, "I may not have been the greatest Yankee, but I am the proudest."

As a tribute, the Florida Marlins called their mascot Billy the Marlin. (The name is also derived from the fact that another name for a marlin is a bill-fish.)

[edit] Death

Billy Martin's grave in Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven
Billy Martin's grave in Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven

He was working as a special consultant to Steinbrenner when he was killed at age 61 in a one-car crash in Binghamton, New York on Christmas Day in 1989. Martin had been drinking heavily with his friend, William Reedy, who was driving the pick-up at the time of the accident. Billy Martin was eulogized by John Cardinal O'Connor at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York before his funeral at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York. His grave is located about 150 feet from the grave of Babe Ruth. The following epitaph by Billy Martin himself appears on the headstone: "I may not have been the greatest Yankee to put on the uniform but I was the proudest."

At the time of his death, Martin was yet again getting ready to manage the Yankees for the 1990 season and had begun assembling a coaching staff.

[edit] Miscellaneous

  • Despite their father-son relationship, Martin and Stengel didn't speak for years because Martin blamed his manager for failing to prevent his trade to Kansas City in 1957.
  • Billy Martin was involved in the 1983 George Brett Pine Tar Incident. There is a rule limiting how far up the barrel a batter can put pine tar on his lumber and Brett was in violation of this rule. After Brett hit a Goose Gossage pitch for a home run, Martin told home plate ump Tim McClelland, who called Brett out, triggering Brett's meltdown. American League president Lee MacPhail overturned McClelland's ruling, allowed the home run to stand. Brett's Royals prevailed when the game was resumed. (This passage is credited to FOX Sports and sportswriter Kevin Hench -- it is from Hench's October 24, 2006 article.) Video of the enraged Brett is replayed often on the anniversary date of July 24, and the Pine Tar Game has become part of baseball folklore.
  • Rod Carew credits Martin with teaching him how to steal home. Carew did it 7 times in 1969, the only year Martin managed him.
  • When Martin was killed, the media reported that he was a passenger in his pickup truck. However, Peter Golenbock, in his book Wild, High, and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin, makes the case that Martin was the driver and that his wife and Reedy covered up the truth.
  • According to the HBO TV series Autopsy [2], the actual truth as to who was driving the night Martin died rightfully lies at the feet of Reedy. Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden performed the autopsy on Martin and investigated the accident scene, including the pick-up truck Martin died in. The autopsy revealed that Martin's impact injuries were all on the right side, and that hair and other DNA found on the right side of the shattered windshield belonged to Martin, who was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. The conclusion of the autopsy study was that Reedy, not Martin, was the driver of the pick-up.
  • George Steinbrenner had a habit of firing and re-hiring Martin. (Martin both preceded and succeeded Lou Piniella as the Yankees' manager.) This was lampooned in a beer commercial in which Steinbrenner tells Martin "You're fired!" to which Martin replies "Oh, no, not again!" After Martin's real-life firing and rehiring, the commercial was resurrected, only with Steinbrenner's line redubbed to say "You're hired!"
  • Martin is mentioned by Denis Leary in his comedy special No Cure For Cancer, in which Leary comments "I believe Billy Martin said it best when he said..."
    (takes a swig of beer)
    "...'Hey, I can drive.'"
  • While posing for a baseball card as the manager for the Detroit Tigers in 1972, Martin gave photographers the middle finger. The gesture went unnoticed until after the card's release.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ [1] Billy Martin's father from the Azores Portugal, later migrated to Hawaii
  • The Golden Game: The Story of California Baseball, by Kevin Nelson, California Historical Society Press, San Francisco (2004), pp.242-254.

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Johnny Mize
Babe Ruth Award
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Dusty Rhodes
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Cal Ermer
Minnesota Twins Manager
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Bill Rigney
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Mayo Smith
Detroit Tigers Manager
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Joe Schultz
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Whitey Herzog
Texas Rangers Manager
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Frank Lucchesi
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Bill Virdon
New York Yankees Manager
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Bob Lemon
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Bob Lemon
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Dick Howser
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Jim Marshall
Oakland Athletics Manager
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Steve Boros
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Charlie Finley
Oakland Athletics General Manager
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Sandy Alderson
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Clyde King
New York Yankees Manager
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Yogi Berra
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Yogi Berra
New York Yankees Manager
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Lou Piniella
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Lou Piniella
New York Yankees Manager
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Lou Piniella

New York Yankees Managers


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