This Date In Transactions History: Billy Martin

George Steinbrenner believed that April is not too soon to fire a manager, apparently. Because on this day in 1985, the late owner dismissed skipper — and Yankees legend — Yogi Berra after a sluggish 6-10 start, in favor of Billy Martin, another former Yankees great. Martin's intensity was in, and Berra's ease and charm was out.

Martin's hiring marked his fourth stint as Yankees manager — and there would later be a fifth, incredibly. But for all the on-again-off-again drama, the move worked. The notoriously fiery Martin reversed the Bombers' fortunes, guiding them to a 97-64 finish in the old AL East, although that was only good enough for a second-place finish behind the frontrunning Blue Jays, as the Wild Card(s) didn't exist back in that Stone Age. Subtract Berra's 6 wins and 10 losses from that final record, and you're left with an impressive 91 wins and 54 losses under Martin's stewardship — 37 games over .500.

Of course, we now know managers only influence their teams' records so much, excepting for absurd ineptitude, and it's worth mentioning that Martin had plenty of talent on his roster. The 1985 Bombers had a few star-caliber players in Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, as well as a handful of strong complementary types like Willie Randolph. The big three combined for 20.4 WAR, according to FanGraphs, while the pitching staff was led by Ron Guidry (5.1 WAR) and a strong bullpen.

Despite the relative turnaround, things didn't end well for the Yanks. Martin's confrontational style got the best of him during a disappointing September stretch run, when was involved in an off-field fight with pitcher Ed Whitson that resulted in Martin suffering a broken arm.

With his Yankees having fallen short of the postseason, Martin's antics were difficult for Steinbrenner to digest, and he was once again fired in the offseason. Of course, Martin would return again, in 1988, his final year as a manager before his death on Christmas Day in 1989.


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6 Comments on "This Date In Transactions History: Billy Martin"


3 years 3 months ago

Billy Martin had his demons, but he bled NYY pinstripes. ¬†A never say die player and a wily manager…makes me wonder what Billy could have accomplished had he conquered those demons.

chico65
3 years 3 months ago

Hank and Hal should fire someone just for nostalgia’s sake

hawkny1
3 years 3 months ago

Only in New York or Boston would Martin’s antics lead to the notoriety he earned as a player and/or manager. Anywhere else, 99.9999999% of baseball fans wouldn’t know who he was if his name were brought up in conversation.

johnsilver
3 years 3 months ago

The Billy Martin stories can recall.. His public squabbles in the media with georgie.. Saying with regards to Reggie Jackson and Steinbrenner “one is a born liar and the other is convicted” (George over watergate) that nearly got him fired again.. His beating in the elevator of the marsh mellow salesman in the elevator.. Numerous drunken escapades of which there were far too many to even post.

He may have been a hero, but truth be told? he knew how to manage, but was a drunken lout.

3 years 3 months ago

As do I!

3 years 3 months ago

If I remember correctly, the removed comment said something to the effect that the author liked Billy Martin.  Interesting that it was removed.