Billy Martin

From BR Bullpen

Note: This page links to former major league infielder and manager Billy Martin. For others with that name, click here.

1952 Topps #175 Billy Martin

Alfred Manuel Martin
born Alfred Manuel Pesano

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

1948 Signal Oil

"I must remember to always think correctly and quicker than the other fellow." - Billy Martin at age 20

Billy Martin was an All-Star second baseman with the New York Yankees in 1956, but he is best known as a feisty manager in the 1970s and 1980s. He managed a total of 19 years, eight of which were with the high-profile New York Yankees.

As a player, Martin played eleven years in the majors, and appeared in five World Series (all with the Yankees), slugging .566. He missed the 1954 season and most of 1955 while serving in the military.

Billy was always in the middle of the action. Even as a youngster in the minors, he was part of the famous 1948 Oakland Oaks team which won the Pacific Coast League championship under Casey Stengel's management. The team was called the "Nine Old Men", but Martin was the exception to the rule, being only 20 at the time.

After retiring as a player in 1961, Martin worked as a scout for the Minnesota Twins from 1962 to 1964, and a Twins coach from 1965 to May of 1968. He then replaced Johnny Goryl as manager of the Denver Bears for the rest of 1968, and managed the Twins in 1969, leading them to the AL West title. However, he got into a fistfight with pitcher Dave Boswell that year, something that did not please upper management, and he was fired after the season in spite of his on-field success.

As a manager, he led the Twins, Detroit Tigers, and Oakland Athletics to the postseason, but he is best remembered as the skipper of the Yankees. He led the Yanks to one world championship in 1977 and two American League pennants and developed a love-hate relationship with team owner George Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner hired and fired Martin five times.

"All I know is, I pass people on the street these days and they don't know whether to say hello or to say good-bye." - oft-cited quote by Billy Martin as Yankee manager

Martin also managed the Texas Rangers to their best finish (to that time) in 1974. Martin was the first manager to guide four different teams to first-place finishes; Davey Johnson would be the second.

Martin's quick thinking was never more in evidence than in the famous Pine Tar Game, where he managed to undo (at least temporarily) opponent George Brett's home run. However, he also had a strong temper and a drinking problem, and continually was in trouble because of his failure to control it. In 1957, he and a number of teammates from the Yankees were involved in a brawl at the famous Copacabana nightclub in New York City; he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics shortly thereafter as he was considered a bad influence on teammates, especially Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. On August 4, 1960, while playing for the Cincinnati Reds, he charged the mound after being brushed back in a game against the Chicago Cubs, threw his bat at pitcher Jim Brewer then punched him, breaking his cheekbone. Brewer missed the remainder of the season and sued Martin, as did the Cubs (who later dropped their lawsuit). Brewer was awarded $10,000 in damages in 1969. As a manager, besides the fight with Boswell, he got into a couple of public spats with star player Reggie Jackson while at the helm of the Yankees, the second leading to his firing in the middle of the 1978 season. After being re-hired, he infamously fought a marshmallow salesman at a hotel in Minneapolis, MN after the 1979 season, leading to another firing. His temper mellowed a bit in later years, but his drinking remained a problem. He was drunk the night he was killed in a car accident near his home on Christmas 1989; there were allegations that he was the driver the night of the accident, although police reports and later investigations confirmed that his friend William Reedy was behind the wheel.

His first baseball card appearance was in the 1952 Topps set. His uniform number 1 was retired by the New York Yankees in 1986. His son Billy Martin Jr. became a minor league manager in 2017.

Notable Achievements[edit]

1983 Topps #156 Billy Martin
Preceded by
Cal Ermer
Minnesota Twins Manager
Succeeded by
Bill Rigney
Preceded by
Mayo Smith
Detroit Tigers Manager
Succeeded by
Joe Schultz
Preceded by
Whitey Herzog
Texas Rangers Manager
Succeeded by
Frank Lucchesi
Preceded by
Bill Virdon
New York Yankees Manager
Succeeded by
Bob Lemon
Preceded by
Bob Lemon
New York Yankees Manager
Succeeded by
Dick Howser
Preceded by
Jim Marshall
Oakland Athletics Manager
Succeeded by
Steve Boros
Preceded by
Charlie Finley
Oakland Athletics General Manager
Succeeded by
Sandy Alderson
Preceded by
Clyde King
New York Yankees Manager
Succeeded by
Yogi Berra
Preceded by
Yogi Berra
New York Yankees Manager
Succeeded by
Lou Piniella
Preceded by
Lou Piniella
New York Yankees Manager
Succeeded by
Lou Piniella

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1968 Denver Bears Pacific Coast League 65-50 6th Minnesota Twins replaced Johnny Goryl (8-22) on May 25
1969 Minnesota Twins American League 97-65 1st Minnesota Twins Lost ALCS
1971 Detroit Tigers American League 91-71 2nd Detroit Tigers
1972 Detroit Tigers American League 86-70 1st Detroit Tigers Lost ALCS
1973 Detroit Tigers American League 71-63 -- Detroit Tigers replaced by Joe Schultz on August 31
Texas Rangers American League 9-14 6th Texas Rangers replaced Whitey Herzog (47-91) and
Del Wilber (1-0) on September 8
1974 Texas Rangers American League 84-76 2nd Texas Rangers
1975 Texas Rangers American League 44-51 -- Texas Rangers replaced by Frank Lucchesi on July 21
New York Yankees American League 30-26 3rd New York Yankees replaced Bill Virdon (53-51) on August 2
1976 New York Yankees American League 97-62 1st New York Yankees Lost World Series
1977 New York Yankees American League 100-62 1st New York Yankees World Series Champs
1978 New York Yankees American League 52-42 -- New York Yankees replaced by Dick Howser on July 24
1979 New York Yankees American League 55-40 4th New York Yankees replaced Bob Lemon (34-31) on June 19
1980 Oakland Athletics American League 83-79 2nd Oakland Athletics
1981 Oakland Athletics American League 64-45 1st Oakland Athletics Lost ALCS
1982 Oakland Athletics American League 68-94 5th Oakland Athletics
1983 New York Yankees American League 91-71 3rd New York Yankees
1985 New York Yankees American League 91-54 2nd New York Yankees replaced Yogi Berra (6-10) on April 29
1988 New York Yankees American League 40-28 -- New York Yankees replaced by Lou Piniella on June 23

Further Reading[edit]

  • Neal Ashby: "Billy Martin: Inside the Mind of a Manager", Baseball Digest, December 1977, pp. 20-23.[1]
  • Dan Cichalski: "Did a John Denver song get Billy Martin fired?",, December 26, 2021. [2]
  • Chris Donnelly: Doc, Donnie, the Kid, and Billy Brawl: How the 1985 Mets and Yankees Fought for New York’s Baseball Soul, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. NE, 2019. ISBN 978-1-4962-0553-7
  • Joe Gergen: "Bout of the Century: Battling Billy vs. Gorgeous George", in Zander Hollander, ed.: The Complete Handbook of Baseball: 18th Edition 1988, Signet Books, New American Library, New York, NY, 1988, pp. 6-15. ISBN 0-451-15237-9
  • Peter Golenbock: Wild, High and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 1994.
  • Jerome Holtzman: "Billy Martin Managed Best When He Was On the Field", Baseball Digest, April 1990, pp. 78-80.[3]
  • Harold Kaese: "Can Martin Play Shortstop? Tigers may find he has heart and arm but not legs for job", Baseball Digest, February 1958, pp. 9-10.[4]
  • Jimmy Keenan and Frank Russo: "Billy Martin", in Gregory H. Wolf, ed.: A Pennant for the Twin Cities: the 1965 Minnesota Twins, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2015, pp. 313-320. ISBN 978-1-943816-09-5
  • Mickey Mantle and Herb Gluck: "Mickey & Billy: From The Mick", in Zander Hollander, ed.: The Complete Handbook of Baseball: 1986 Season, Signet Books, New American Library, New York, NY, 1986, pp. 24-35. ISBN 0-451-14177-6
  • Billy Martin (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, August 1972, pp. 69-71.[5]
  • Billy Martin and Peter Golenbock: Number 1, Delacorte Press, New York, NY, 1980.
  • Billy Martin and Phil Pepe: Billyball, Doubleday & Co., Garden City, NY, 1987.
  • Todd Masters: The 1972 Detroit Tigers: Billy Martin and the Half-Game Champs, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7864-4820-3
  • Bill Pennington: Billy Martin: Baseball's Flawed Genius, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY, 2015. ISBN 978-0544022096
  • Mike Shropshire: Seasons in Hell: With Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and 'The Worst Team in History' - The 1973-1975 Texas Rangers, Dutton Books, New York, NY, 1996. ISBN 978-1556114953
  • Dale Tafoya: Billy Ball: Billy Martin and the Resurrection of the Oakland A's, Lyons Press, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2020. ISBN 978-1493043620

Related Sites[edit]