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Billy Martin

Seasons Of Billyball

The constant frustration drove Martin to heavier drinking and barroom brawls, which never failed to make headlines. In 1979 he punched a Minnesota marshmallow salesman in a bar, and Steinbrenner fired him again. This time Martin was hired to manage the Oakland Athletics. In 1980 the A's came in second in the league; the following year they were first and then second in a season split by a players' strike, but they were defeated by the Yankees in the World Series. In 1982 they fell to fifth place, even though Rickey Henderson stole a record-breaking 130 bases. Martin left, believing that the team owners had interfered with decision making and the pitchers had failed to stay in shape during the strike.

During Martin's seasons with Oakland, he built a playing strategy around Stengel's "run sheep run baseball" style. Columnist Ralph Wiley of the Oakland Tribune gave it a name: Billyball. Equipped with Henderson as a base stealer, Fowler as his pitching coach, and the freedom to hire players he thought could do the job, Martin developed Billyball as the envy of the baseball world. His plays included the hit-and-run, the double steal, and the suicide squeeze, adding up to a total of runs that led the league. Henderson said of Martin in 2001: "We did anything to get a run. He was a genius as a manager. He might not say anything until the sixth inning. He'd let you play until then. Then he would start managing."

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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: