Billy Martin: A managerial career retrospective

04/28/2014 11:01 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Billy Martin poses with George Steinbrenner during Yankees spring training 1983.(AP)
Alfred Manuel "Billy" Martin played 527 of his 1,021 career games for the New York Yankees, manning three infield positions (and, for one inning in 1951, center field) from his MLB debut in April 1950 until he was traded to the Athletics in June 1957.

Little did Martin know, however, that it would be just the first of six stints with the Yankees, with five more as Yankees manager to come between 1975 and 1988 - a 13-year period where the love-hate relationship he shared with principal owner George M. Steinbrenner III made TV's "Odd Couple" look like today's proverbial BFFs.

Let's take a look back at Martin's managerial career, with the Yankees and beyond:


Career Record:
-1,253-1,013 (.553) over 16 seasons with the Twins, Tigers, Rangers, Yankees, and Athletics

Career Breakdown:
-97-65 (.599) in one season with the Twins (1969)
-248-204 (.549) in three seasons with the Tigers (1971-73)
-137-141 (.493) in parts of three seasons with the Rangers (1973-75)
-556-385 (.561) in parts of eight seasons with the Yankees (1975-78, 1979, 1983, 1985, 1988)
-215-218 (.497) in three seasons with the Athletics (1980-82)

Career Highlights:
-1x World Series Champion (1977 Yankees)
-2x American League Champion (1976-77 Yankees)
-5x Division Champion (1969 Twins, 1972 Tigers, 1976-77 Yankees, 1981 Athletics)
-1st of 3 managers of 1978 AL East, AL, and World Series Champion Yankees


Phase 1: One season in the Twin Cities
Following his retirement after the 1961 season, Martin joined the Minnesota Twins organization and filled various staff roles from 1962-68 before getting his first major-league managerial job with the 1969 Twins. In the first year of divisional play in baseball, Martin led Minnesota to a 97-win season and the first-ever AL West title; however, the Twins were swept by the Orioles in the ALCS, and because of behavioral issues - including a much-publicized fight with pitcher Dave Boswell (who won 20 games for Martin, mind you) in Detroit that August - Martin was unceremoniously fired shortly thereafter.

Phase 2: Motown reclamation
Martin spent 1970 out of baseball, but was hired by Detroit - ironically, the city where he had the fight with Boswell two years earlier - prior to the 1971 season. The Tigers finished second in the AL East with a 91-71 record in 1971, then won the division with an 86-70 record the following year before losing a heartbreaking five-game ALCS to the Athletics. He would end up suspended and eventually fired the following year, however, as despite a 71-63 record at the time of his dismissal, Martin's temper struck again - and he was disciplined for openly telling his pitchers to do nefarious things in "retaliation" for what he felt was Gaylord Perry's open use of the illegal spitball.

Phase 3: Quick rebound
Billy Martin wasn't out of managing long after being let go in Detroit, as good friend and Texas Rangers owner Robert Short scooped him up right away to replace a fired Whitey Herzog. The Rangers went 9-14 under Martin as they finished out their second straight 100-loss season, but in 1974, they almost went from worst to first, going 84-76 and finishing just five games behind Oakland in the AL West. The bubble burst in 1975, however, as Martin was fired that July after going 44-51 and clashing with the Rangers' new owner, Brad Corbett.

Phase 4: Back in pinstripes
For the second time in three years, Martin went from fired to hired within weeks, as the Yankees - who had just fired Bill Virdon - brought Billy back to manage the club for the final two months of 1975. He led the Yankees to a 30-26 record down the stretch in 1975, and in 1976, he led the Bombers to a 97-62 record, their first-ever AL East title, and first AL pennant since 1964.

After being swept by the Reds in the 1976 World Series, the "Bronx Zoo" rebounded to win 100 games in 1977 and go on to their first World Series title since 1962, and were well on their way to a repeat in 1978…but Martin didn't get to finish the journey, as blowups with both Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson led to Martin tearfully resigning as manager of the then 52-42 Yankees on July 24.

Phase 5: Back in pinstripes…again
How many guys can say they replaced the guy who replaced them? Not many, but Martin is one of them, rehired to replace Bob Lemon (who had taken over after he resigned less than a year earlier) in June 1979. Martin's second managerial tenure in the Bronx only lasted a few months, however, as despite a 55-40 finish under Billy, the Yankees failed to win their fourth straight AL East crown and Martin was fired after his temper once again got the best of him during the offseason.

Phase 6: California dreamin'
Martin quickly resurfaced after being fired, with the California-born boy "heading home" in 1980 after being hired to manage the Athletics. Martin led the A's to an 83-79 second-place finish in 1980, and in the split 1981 season, Oakland won the first-half AL West crown, finished 64-45 overall, and beat Detroit in the divisional playoff before getting swept in the ALCS by none other than the Yankees. Martin's success led to him also being named the team's general manager for the 1982 season, but he lost both titles after the A's plummeted to a 68-94 record that season.

Phase 7: Back in pinstripes again…and again and again
Martin returned to the Yankees for a third stint in 1983, leading the team to a third-place finish at 91-71, but he was fired and replaced by Yogi Berra after just one season. He would return for a fourth stint when Berra was fired in April 1985, but barely six months later, Martin became the Yankees' ex-manager for the fourth time when he was fired (after a 91-54 finish that season, mind you) and replaced with Lou Piniella. He was brought back one last time when Piniella was promoted to the front office following the 1987 season, but despite a 40-27 start in 1988, Martin suffered his final firing from Steinbrenner and was once again replaced by Piniella on June 23 of that year.

He spent the 1989 season as a special consultant to Steinbrenner and was rumored to be coming back for a sixth term in 1990; sadly, however, Alfred Manuel "Billy" Martin never got the chance, as he was tragically killed in an automobile accident on Christmas Day 1989.

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