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Billy Martin

New York Yankee

After Oakland won the Pacific Coast pennant, with Martin playing three infield positions, Stengel was hired to manage the New York Yankees. In 1950, Stengel signed Martin to play with the Yankees, although he spent much of his first year with the farm team. In 1951, Martin met the sensational new player Mickey Mantle, and the two young men—opposite in temperament—became lifelong friends.

When the Yankees played the Dodgers in the seventh game of the 1952 World Series, Martin made a name for himself by running up from second base to catch Jackie Robinson's pop-up ball near the pitcher's mound, winning the game, and the World Series, for the Yankees, their fourth straight World Series victory. The following year, the Yankees made it five straight World Series titles. That season, Martin had twelve hits, batted .500, and played regular second base.


1928 Born May 16 in Berkeley, California
1946 Graduates from Berkeley High School; begins playing baseball on an Oakland Oaks farm team
1947 Is hired to play for Phoenix in the Arizona-Texas league; leads league in hitting, at bats, hits, doubles, and runs batted in; as third baseman leads league in putouts, assists, and errors
1948 Plays professional baseball on Casey Stengel's Oakland Oaks team; team wins Pacific Coast League pennant
1950 Stengel, now with New York Yankees, brings Martin on board as a utility player; Martin marries Lois Elaine Berndt on October 4—they will have one daughter, Kelly Ann
1950-51 Serves in U.S. Army
1951 Meets Mickey Mantle at Yankees training camp and the two begin a lifelong friendship
1952 Steps in from second base to catch a pop-up ball, saving a seventh-game win for the Yankees over the Dodgers, making it the Yankees' fourth straight World Series win
1953 Plays second base in Yankees' fifth straight World Series-winning season, batting .500; is divorced from Berndt
1953-55 Serves in U.S. Army
1955-56 Plays with Yankees; team wins another World Series in 1956
1957 Martin is blamed for a headline-making brawl at Manhattan's Copacabana Club after his twenty-ninth birthday party; he is traded in June to the Kansas City Athletics and again at the end of the season, to Detroit
1958 Is traded to Cleveland; gets hit in the face by a pitch, breaking his jaw and ending his playing season; is traded to Cincinnati
1959 Marries Gretchen Winkler, an airline stewardess; they will have a
1960 Jim Brewer and the Chicago Cubs file a $1 million lawsuit against Martin after a brawl with Brewer on the pitcher's mound; Martin is traded to the Milwaukee Braves
1961 Is traded to the Minnesota Twins
1962-64 Works as scout for the Minnesota Twins
1965-67 Works as third-base coach for Minnesota Twins
1968 Is hired as manager of Twins' Denver Bears farm club; team finishes fourth and makes playoffs
1969 Is hired as manager of Minnesota Twins; is fired at end of season
1971-73 Manages Detroit Tigers; is fired in September 1973
1973-75 Manages the Texas Rangers; is fired in July 1975
1975 Is hired to manage the New York Yankees; Yankees finish first in league in 1976 and 1977
1978 Martin resigns as Yankee manager after ongoing conflict with owner George Steinbrenner; Steinbrenner hires him back the next day for the 1979 season
1979 Steinbrenner fires Martin after Martin hits a marshmallow salesman in a barroom brawl in October
1980-82 Manages the Oakland Athletics, making "Billyball" famous; resigns after conflict with owner representative Roy Eisenhardt
1981 Is divorced from Gretchen Winkler
1983 Manages New York Yankees; is fired as manager after 1983 season but kept on payroll
1985 Is rehired as manager of Yankees but fired at end of season
1988 Marries Jill Guiver, a freelance photographer, with Mickey Mantle as best man; is hired for fifth time as manager of Yankees; is beaten up in a barroom brawl in Texas after losing a game in May; Steinbrenner fires him as manager in June but keeps him on as special adviser son, Billy Joseph
1989 Dies of injuries sustained in a car accident on Christmas night, December 25, in Binghamton, New York, at age 61
1990 Martin's son, Billy Joe, throws out the ball to open the New York Yankees season; the Yankees win

After returning from military service in 1955, Martin played in another World Series and then in 1956 played one more regular season with the Yankees. Then his world collapsed. For his twenty-ninth birthday party, on May 16, 1957, a group of players went to dinner with their wives, although Martin, being divorced, attended alone. Afterwards, they went to Manhattan's Copacabana Club, and player Hank Bauer supposedly got into a fight with men at the next table. The following day, the newspapers broadcast the story. Yankee owner George Weiss blamed Martin for the mess and called him a bad influence on Mantle. One month later, Weiss traded Martin to the Kansas City Athletics, ending his playing career with the Yankees and leaving him hurt and bitter for years to come.

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Famous Sports StarsBaseballBilly Martin Biography - "belli," But Tough, New York Yankee, Chronology, The Hard Years, Career Changes - SELECTED WRITINGS BY MARTIN: