• Remembering Billy

    Posted by on October 29th, 2006 · Comments (7)

    From the Contra Costa Times

    Alfred Manuel (Billy) Martin was born May 16, 1928, in Berkeley to Alfred and Joan Martin. He was raised by his mother after his parents separated. She, being of Italian ancestry, called him “bello,” which is “beautiful” in Italian, and that’s how he got the nickname “Billy.”

    Billy started his major league career as the second baseman for the Yankees. He went on to be the MVP in the 1953 World Series and was an All-Star in 1956. Billy played and partied hard, and the partying got him traded in 1957 to the Kansas City Athletics. Despite their deep friendship, Billy and Casey didn’t speak for years after that trade. Billy always felt that Casey did nothing to stop the trade.

    He returned to the Yankees in 1975. He took the Yankees to the World Series in 1976 and 1977 and won the World Series in 1977. Billy resigned briefly in 1978 after feuding with outfielder Reggie Jackson and team owner George Steinbrenner. He returned to the Yankees in 1979 and was fired for fighting with a salesman.

    Billy went on to manage the Oakland Athletics and won the Western Division split-title in 1981 after he perfected a play called “Billyball.” The A’s went on to sweep the Royals and then lost to the Yankees. He was fired from the Athletics in 1982, and returned to the Yankees in 1983, 1985 and 1988, but for never more than one full season, due to his temperament.

    On August 10, 1986, the Yankees retired his uniform number — 1. They also dedicated a plaque in his honor at Yankee Stadium. The plaque says, “There has never been a greater competitor than Billy.”

    His untimely death on Dec. 25, 1989, in a car crash shocked all. His grave is located close to Babe Ruth, with the epitaph being something he said: “I may not have been the greatest Yankee to put on the uniform, but I was the proudest.”

    They said Martin was the only man who could actually hear someone give him the finger.

    He was a funny guy – there’s a story about him and Mantle, when they were young, running from rangers after they were caught poaching on a farmer’s land (featured in one of Mantle’s books) that’s priceless.

    In summary, the usual drill was for the rangers to just run the guys off the land and give them a scare. However, on that day, Martin didn’t feel like running too long and told Mantle “Screw it, I’m going to shoot it out” and then Billy turned and aimed his rifle at the rangers. If I recall correctly, in the book, Mantle said that the rangers looked like they saw a ghost when this happened at hit the dirt in an instant.

    Pure Billy.

    I still would have not retired his number though…that was a gift from Stein.

    Comments on Remembering Billy

    1. MJ
      October 29th, 2006 | 4:57 pm

      I see nothing wrong with the Yanks retiring Billy’s number. He was one of the colorful and recognizable characters from the Yankee Dynasty during the Golden Age of baseball in NYC and then again during the rebirth of Yankee baseball in the Bronx Zoo years. Despite being with the Royals, Twins, A’s, and others, he was still always a Yankee.

      What about his retired number don’t you like? Considering you’re a big defender of Steinbrenner, who is an utterly pathetic, arrogant blowhard with no people skills, what don’t you like about Martin, who was pretty much cut from the same cloth?

    2. October 29th, 2006 | 7:57 pm

      I just don’t think that he did enough, as Yankees manager, to have his number retired. I’ll give him a plaque in M.P., sure, but, I would have not taken #1 out of use.

      Then again, I would have not retired 44 either…..

    3. MJ
      October 29th, 2006 | 9:08 pm

      Mr. October doesn’t get the nod, being a big reason for winning two trophies for the team, hitting 12 homers in 34 games (1 HR/9.9 AB), and posting a batting line of .328/.417/.529/.947?

      I know the Yanks have guys like Mickey, Yogi, Joe D, Lou, Babe and now Bernie/Jeter with fantastic stats in October but Reggie was the big dog in that lineup that resulted in two rings and three pennants. Those stats have to stand out in your mind given how little time Reggie actually spent in New York (compared to the aforementioned Yankee lifers. Am I wrong?

    4. MJ
      October 29th, 2006 | 9:11 pm

      I guess I should preface this by saying that I was 6 years old when Reggie left town after the 1981 season so I’m only judging him by his stats and the World Series images I’ve seeon replay. I never actually watched any of his post-season games in Pinstripes. So if there’s something beyond the stats that I’m missing, please tell me. But on stats and impact alone, I’d figure that most see #44 having a retired jersey as a no-brainer.

    5. Don
      October 30th, 2006 | 3:02 am

      Only Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle should have their numbers retired. Maybe the combo of Dickey & Berra as well.

      Reggie? For five seasons? For one big WS? You’ve gotta be kidding. Have a Reggie Bar.

    6. MJ
      October 30th, 2006 | 8:58 am

      Only Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle should have their numbers retired. Maybe the combo of Dickey & Berra as well.


      With all due respect, that’s why I hate “old-schoolers”. You probably think there’s such a thing as a “True Yankee” too. Ugh.

    7. October 30th, 2006 | 9:12 am

      I’ll say this, if Reggie goes into the Hall as an “A” or an “Angel” there’s no way Stein retires his number. See: Winfield, Dave.

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