Results tagged ‘ billy martin ’
Only eight men in baseball history have accomplished what Bob Lemon did in 1978, which is managing a New York Yankee team to a World Series Championship. Only five of those former Yankee skippers are now in Baseball’s Hall of Fame and Bob Lemon is one of them. Unlike fellow Hall of Famer’s Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, Bucky Harris and Casey Stengel, however, Bob Lemon got into Cooperstown for his pitching accomplishments and not his managing career.
Born in San Bernardino, CA on September 22, 1922, Lemon was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball from 1947 through 1956. During that span he compiled seven 20-victory seasons and a won-loss record of 197-111 for the Cleveland Indians. He started his managing career in the minors in Hawaii, in 1964 and got his first big league skipper assignment with the Royals in 1970. That lasted for two and a half seasons. Bill Veeck then hired him to manage the White Sox in 1977 and Lemon led the team to a 90-72 record. His Windy City success was short-lived, however and when the Sox got off to a 34-40 start the following year, the guy everyone called “Meat” was fired.
The timing couldn’t have been any better. Billy Martin was then feuding with Yankee superstar, Reggie Jackson and drinking heavily. Between the booze, the constant probing of the Big Apple sports media and the pressure of working for George Steinbrenner, Martin seemed to be on the verge of suffering a nervous breakdown. Lemon’s old Cleveland Indian teammate, Al Rosen, was then working for Steinbrenner as Yankee President and the Boss had grown up in Cleveland and loved hiring ex-Indian stars. When Martin made his famous “One’s a born liar and the other’s a convicted one.” charge, Rosen called Lemon and asked him to take over the Yankees. At the time, New York’s record was a decent 52-42 but they were fourteen games behind the wickedly hot Red Sox.
Lemon employed the exact opposite managing style of the mercurial Martin. He pretty much made out a lineup card and then sat back in the dugout and watched his players play. The Yankee team responded to his almost grandfatherly approach by winning 48 of their next sixty-eight games including the legendary playoff game at Fenway and went on to win their second straight World Series that year. Author Maury Allen wrote in his book “All Roads Lead to October,” that Neville Chamberlain would have loved Lemon because he “brought peace in our time” to the Yankee clubhouse. Never-the-less, afraid of a fan backlash for his removal of the popular Martin, Steinbrenner had already orchestrated the now-famous announcement during the 1978 Yankee Old Timer’s Day that Lemon would be promoted to the GM position after the 1979 season and Billy Martin would again be Yankee manager.
That winter, Lemon’s youngest son was killed in automobile accident. Al Rosen claimed the tragedy took the life out of his old teammate. Lemon started drinking heavily and didn’t seem focused when he returned to manage the Yankees in 1979. When New York got off to a lackluster 34-31 start that season, Steinbrenner fast forwarded the return of Martin and the Yankee managerial position became a game of musical chairs that would continue for the next fifteen years. Lemon would get one more shot at Skippering the Yankees in 1981, replacing Gene Michael with just 25 games remaining in that crazy, strike shortened, split-in-two-parts season.. The Yankees made it to the World Series but they lost to the Dodgers in six games. Lemon’s second tenure as Yankee field boss ended 14 games into the 1982 season when he was replaced by Gene Michael and the game of musical chairs continued. Lemon passed away in January of 2000 at the age of 79.
There were two reasons why I did not like the 1976 early-season trade that made Fran Healy, Thurman Munson’s backup. First of all, that Yankee team already had the young Rick Dempsey as a reserve catcher and I liked him a lot. The second reason was because New York gave up their promising left-handed starter, Larry Gura. Gura impressed me when he went 5-1 as a starter during his first season in Pinstripes in 1974, with two of those victories being complete game shutouts. Though he had not been as good the following year, I thought he was still one of New York’s best pitchers and I hated to see him dealt.
In Healy, the Yankees got an OK receiver to spell their snarly team Captain once a week, a job that Dempsey could have handled much better. It wasn’t until 1977 that the intangible value of the Healy acquisition paid huge dividends for New York. That was the year the Yankees decided to put the flamboyant and pretty self-centered superstar, Reggie Jackson, in the same dugout as the mercurial, alcoholic Billy Martin. For some reason, Jackson decided to befriend Healy and actually take his advice from time-to-time. On more than one occasion, Healy was able to talk Reggie out of doing something that would further provoke Martin or hurt New York’s chance of winning. Fran was born on September 6, 1946, in Holyoke, MA.
As for Gura, he became the very good Major League starting pitcher I knew he would. Dempsey would go onto become an Oriole defensive mainstay behind the plate for many seasons. As for Healy, once the Yankees fired Martin in 1978, there was little left for the catcher/diplomat to do in the Yankee clubhouse so he switched careers and moved to the broadcasting booth. From there, Healy evolved into a sports celebrity interviewer. New York sports fans know him for his popular “Halls of Fame” interview show in which he interviews members of the Halls of Fame from each major sport.
I never was a big fan of Billy Martin. I was too young to remember his playing days with the Yankees in the fifties. When he started managing in the American League, first for the Twins in 1969 and then the Tigers in 1971, I remember trying to learn more about him. Everything I read seemed to indicate he had a great will to win, a strong knowledge of the game but an extremely bad temper. This helped explain why he was fired from his first three managerial positions even after he helped turn losing teams into winners.
When George Steinbrenner became managing partner of the Yankees the perfect storm necessary to bring these two unpredictable forces together in the Bronx had been formed. In the beginning, it worked marvelously. The Yankees got back to the World Series and fans filled the Stadium like never before. It didn’t last long, however. Martin’s dependence on alcohol worsened under the pressure of Steinbrenner’s meddling and the glare of the New York media. Once these fault lines became public during and after the 1977 season, Martin would never again be able to command the respect or support of his players necessary to lead them to championships.
As more and more Yankees and ex-Yankees began talking and writing about their experiences while playing for Martin, a clearer picture of his addiction to alcohol, his emotional insecurity, and his inhumane behavior emerged. What respect I had for his past achievements was quickly replaced by pity for what he had become.
Having written all this it is only fair to point out that there are many people who knew Martin personally and who played with him and for him on a baseball field who loved and deeply respected the guy. My opinions of him were formed from the far-away focus of a typical baseball fan.
He died on Christmas day in 1989 when his truck was driven into a ditch by a friend who was driving intoxicated at the time. The driver and Martin had been drinking all day. May he now be resting in peace.
During his final season as Yankee skipper in 1989, Martin had this right-handed veteran starter who shares his May 16th birthday, on his pitching staff. Martin was not the Yankee manager when this other May 16th born right-hander pitched in pinstripes, during the 1981 season. This former Yankee reliever was also born on that day.
Martin’s record as a Yankee player:
|1954||Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)|
|NYY (7 yrs)||527||1887||1717||220||449||70||18||30||188||19||112||178||.262||.313||.376||.688|
|MIN (1 yr)||108||398||374||44||92||15||5||6||36||3||13||42||.246||.275||.361||.636|
|MLN (1 yr)||6||6||6||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|KCA (1 yr)||73||285||265||33||68||9||3||9||27||7||12||20||.257||.295||.415||.710|
|CIN (1 yr)||103||346||317||34||78||17||1||3||16||0||27||34||.246||.304||.334||.639|
|CLE (1 yr)||73||258||242||37||63||7||0||9||24||0||8||18||.260||.290||.401||.691|
|DET (1 yr)||131||536||498||56||127||19||1||7||42||5||16||62||.255||.279||.339||.619|
Martin’s record as a Yankee manager:
|8||1975||47||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||56||30||26||.536||3|
|9||1976||48||New York Yankees||AL||159||97||62||.610||1||AL Pennant|
|10||1977||49||New York Yankees||AL||162||100||62||.617||1||WS Champs|
|11||1978||50||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 3||94||52||42||.553||1|
|12||1979||51||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||95||55||40||.579||4|
|17||1983||55||New York Yankees||AL||162||91||71||.562||3|
|18||1985||57||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||145||91||54||.628||2|
|19||1988||60||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||68||40||28||.588||5|
|Minnesota Twins||1 year||162||97||65||.599||1.0|
|Detroit Tigers||3 years||452||248||204||.549||2.0|
|Texas Rangers||3 years||279||137||141||.493||3.7|
|Oakland Athletics||3 years||433||215||218||.497||2.5|
|New York Yankees||8 years||941||556||385||.591||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
|16 years||2267||1253||1013||.553||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|