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This Day In Sports…May 16, 1928:
The day Billy Martin is born. The hot-headed but talented Martin managed the New York Yankees five different times between 1975 and 1988, an era peppered by fights with opposing players, his own players, and a marshmallow salesman. But there was success on the field, including a World Series title in 1977. He also managed the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers before the Yankees—and the Oakland A’s in between his various stints under New York owner George Steinbrenner.
Martin’s hate-love-hate relationship with Steinbrenner became painfully evident during the 1977 championship season, as the two feuded all year long. Things were also frosty between Martin and superstar Reggie Jackson. The duo almost got into a fight on national TV in 1977, and he was fired in the 1978 season (during my first day as sports director at KIVI) after famously declaring this about his adversaries: “One’s a born liar, and the other’s convicted.” A week later, Steinbrenner announced that Martin would return as manager in 1979.
It took until June for Martin to retake the reins during the 1979 campaign. And he was fired again after the season when he got into a fight with a marshmallow salesman in Minneapolis. During his third stint with the Yankees in 1983, Martin was in the middle of the famous “Pine Tar Incident” with Kansas City Royals star George Brett. Martin protested the amount of tar on Brett’s bat, nullifying a home run and ending the game. The Royals protested in return, and the game resumed, with KC winning. Brawls would be at the heart of two other Martin firings.
Martin began his pro playing career in Class D baseball in Idaho Falls in 1946. He joined the Yankees in 1950 as a gritty second baseman and helped anchor the infield at a time when the Yanks were dominating baseball. Martin was at his best in October. He saved the 1952 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers when he made a terrific catch of a wind-whipped Jackie Robinson popup in Game 7. And Martin was MVP of the 1953 World Series, also against the Dodgers.
Martin played for the Yankees until 1957, when he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics following a brawl at the Copacabana in New York. He’d also play for the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Braves before finishing with the Minnesota Twins in 1961. Martin batted a respectable .257 in his career. The late Billy Martin would have been 95 years old today.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)
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