Christmas Day, 1989. 26-years ago the wild ride that was the life of Billy Martin came to end in a deadly car accident. The New York Yankees highly volatile skipper — known more for his off the field antics than many of his accomplishments on the diamond — saw his life end at the age of 61 well before it should have.
Billy Martin was a hard nosed ball player. It is sometimes forgotten that he held World Series records after his 1953 performance. He registered a then record 12 hits and batted .500 en route to winning his third World Series in a row with the New York Yankees.
But that would become overshadowed because of what Martin would make his claim to fame. A booze loving, short tempered brawler who was neither a player’s coach nor a yes man, but had one of the better baseball IQs in the game’s history.
Martin’s managerial record speaks for itself. His debut season in 1969 with the Minnesota Twins saw him lead a 79-83 inherited team to 97-65 AL West Champions. As a rookie manager! He would be fired for fighting after one season. He strung together two AL Pennants, one World Series title and six 90-win seasons.
His time as a manager will be more likely remembered for his time not as a manager. Five times, he and The Boss butted heads. Five times he was brought back to the Yankees after either resigning or being fired. Why? Martin was a winner. You simply had to live with his maniacal style, but he would get you wins.
He butted heads with players — Reggie Jackson and Ed Whitson most notoriously — he feuded with umpires, he challenged Hall of Fame legends and their use of pine tar and he always stood his ground against The Boss.
But Martin’s inner demons would always get the best of him.
In this month’s Baseball Magazine, I take a look at Billy Martin’s illustrious career. The link below will take you to the digital issue where you can find my article. Jump on over to page eight to see my piece and then take a gander at the rest of our authors!
The Bronx is Burning: The Life and Times of Billy Martin