Monday, April 16, 2012

#156 Billy Martin - Oakland A's

So here we see Billy Martin on his 11th Topps card as a manager.  I wasn't sure whether to count the 70's team cards with a small pic of the manager as one of his cards, but I did.  Martin had nine Topps cards as a player.

Martin looks somewhat creepy in the picture.  I think it has something to do with his glasses.  I never noticed the crucifix under the A on his cap until now. 
Player:  Billy Martin played in the major leagues from 1950 - '61.  He missed all of the '54 season and most of '55 serving in the military.  Although a light hitting second baseman who never had an OPS+ over 97 in the regular season, he was a postseason hero for the Yankees. 
Martin was a role player on the '51 championship team but was a regular on the '52, '53 and '56 teams that won it all.  Martin and the Yanks won the pennant in '55 but lost to the Dodgers in the World Series.  Martin hit .500 with two dingers in '53 and in 99 career World Series at bats he hit .333/.371/.566 with five homers.

The Yankees traded Martin in '57 after the infamous wild brawl at the Copacabana night club involving Martin, Mickey Mantle, Hank Bauer, and Whitey Ford.  Believed to be a bad influence on his more talented teammates, the Yankees traded Martin to the Kansas City A's.  From there he embarked on a vagabond tour of the Midwest with stops in Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Minnesota.

Martin finished his playing career with four championships and a .257 lifetime average.  

Manager: Martin stayed in the Twins organization after his playing career as a scout from '62-'64.  He then was a third base coach from '65 until the middle of '68 when he took over the Twins AAA team in Denver.  He replaced Cal Ermer in Minnesota for the '69 season and led the Twins to the division title.  Along the way the rookie manager ruffled owner Calvin Griffith's feather's with his frequent confrontations with umpires. A back alley fight with his own pitcher Dave Boswell showed Martin was just as fiery as he was during his playing days.  The Twins were swept out of the inaugural ALCS by the Orioles and Martin was canned.

After spending 1970 out of baseball, Martin was named manager of the Tigers in 1971.  He led the veteran team to a second place finish his first year and an AL East crown the next.  The Tigers lost to the A's in the '72 ALCS.  Martin was terminated by Detroit in '73, despite a 71-63 record at the time, after he admitting ordering his pitchers to throw at Indian batters.  Martin had been wearing out his welcome anyway as he frequently bickered with GM Jim Campbell.

Martin wasn't unemployed long as Texas hired him shortly after and he finished the season as the Rangers skipper.  He turned the Ranger franchise around taking them from 6th in '73 to a surprising 84-76 second place finish in '75.  He was fired in the second half of the '76 season as Texas ownership was disappointed with their 44-51 record. 

Martin once again was quickly hired, this time returning to the Big Apple to guide the Yankees.  Under Martin, New York won a pennant in '76 and a World Series in '77.  Although successful Martin was often fighting with owner George Steinbrenner, star outfielder Reggie Jackson, or both.  After stating "the two of them deserve each other - one's a born liar [Jackson], the other's convicted [Steinbrenner]", the Boss had enough and sent him packing during the middle of the '78 division race.

Seeking to spark the Yankees in '79, Steinbrenner fired Jim Lemon and brought Martin back mid-season.  Although they won 55 of their last 95 games, the Yankees finished fourth.  After Martin roughed up a marshmallow salesman in the offseason, he was let go a second time. 

Martin went on to manage the Oakland A's and his aggressive style of baseball, dubbed Billyball, injected life into the A's.  They finished second in 1980 and won the first half of the strike abbreviated '81 season.  After sweeping the Royals in the divisional series his old Yankee crew knocked the A's out in the ALCS.  Martin expected his starting pitchers to finish what they started and his 1980 squad led the league by a wide margin in complete games with 94.  Martin wore out his pitching staff and by '82 the team limped to fifth place finish.  Martin was convinced he deserved a five-year extension but with the pitching staff ailing and his post game tantrums becoming more and more regular A's ownership cut him loose.

Martin was in and out as the Yankees manager three more times but never lasted more than a season.  He was at the helm for the '83 season and led NY to a 91 win third place finish with the famous Pine Tar incident highlighting the year.  After his third firing he was brought back early in the '85 season.  A fight with his pitcher Ed Whitson left Martin with a broken arm and marred the '85 season.  The Yanks finished second but Martin was axed by NY for a fourth time. 

Martin returned one more time in 1988.  After a 2-7 road trip Steinbrenner fired Martin one last time although the Yankees were 40-28 and only 2.5 games behind Detroit in the standings.

When Martin died in 1990 he was rumored to be preparing to take charge of the Yankees yet again.  His career record stands at 1253-1013 and his lone championship came with in the Bronx Zoo in 1977.  His aggressive style always paid immediate dividends when he took over a team, but his brawling and argumentative nature wore out those around him.

Flipside:  Those two hits in the same inning were his first two at bats in the big leagues.  The game was a wild one against the Red Sox at Fenway.  Martin entered the game as a defensive sub in the 6th.  Trailing 10-4 in the 8th inning, the Yankees started to rally.  With one out and two on, Martin hit an RBI double off Mel Parnell to make it 10-5.  By the time he batted later in the inning, the Yankees had an 11-10 lead and had chased Parnell and two other Boston hurlers.  Martin hit a two run single of Al Papei to make it 13-10.  The Yankees would add two more in the top of the ninth to make it 15-10, which was how it would end after the Red Sox failed to answer. 

Oddball: Martin probably got into more brawls than any post WWII-era ballplayer.  This link has a partial list.

History:  Martin's number was retired at Yankee stadium in 1986 and he was quoted as saying-
I may not have been the greatest Yankee to put on the uniform, but I was the proudest.


  1. "I'm not sure but I think that several, if not many batters have had two hits in an inning."

    It sounds like Martin did it in his first major league game, though.

  2. Ah, good catch. That's what I get for rushing through a post! Thanks.