Billy Martin: Yankees’ No. 1, icon and manager blended into one

Billy Martin of the New York Yankees

Table of Contents

PositionSecond Baseman, Shortstop and Third Baseman
Active years1950 – 1961
Teams (years)New York Yankees (1950–1953, 1955–1957)
Kansas City Athletics (1957)
Detroit Tigers (1958)
Cleveland Indians (1959)
Cincinnati Reds (1960)
Milwaukee Braves (1961)
Minnesota Twins (1961)
DebutApril 18, 1950, New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
Last gameOctober 1, 1961, Minnesota Twins vs. detroit tigers
Date of BirthMay 16, 1928
Native placeBerkeley, California, U.S.
All-StarAll-Star (1956)
Shirt retiredNew York Yankees No. 1 retired
MLB Awards5× World Series champion (1951–1953, 1956, 1977)
Teams managedMinnesota Twins (1969)
Detroit Tigers (1971–1973)
Texas Rangers (1973–1975)
New York Yankees (1975–1978, 1979)
Oakland Athletics (1980–1982)
New York Yankees (1983, 1985, 1988)
NicknameThe Brat, Billy the Kid

Billy Martin had a remarkable 11-season career as a second baseman for the New York Yankees, maintaining a batting average of .257. He also took the helm as the team’s manager for a total of five seasons. In recognition of his contributions to the Yankees, the team retired his jersey number, No. 1, on August 10, 1980, placing him among the legends of the franchise.

The pinnacle of Martin’s playing career was undoubtedly his years with the New York Yankees, spanning from 1950 to 1957. During the World Series, he showcased exceptional prowess with a batting average of .333. One of his most memorable moments occurred in the seventh game of the 1952 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, when he made a game-saving catch on Jackie Robinson’s hit, reaching down to snag the ball just above his shoetop. The following year, in Game 6 of the Series, Martin recorded his 12th hit, setting a new record. His hit brought in the winning run during the ninth inning, securing the Yankees’ fifth consecutive World Series championship.

Transitioning to a managerial role, Billy Martin earned a reputation for his astute baseball acumen, capable of turning almost any team into a success story. However, his complex personality sometimes led to inconsistent behavior, often due to excessive drinking. This erratic conduct and challenges in handling both seasoned players and young pitchers led to his premature dismissal from managerial positions.

In a managerial career that included stints with the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, and Oakland Athletics, Martin also managed the Yankees, not once, but on five separate occasions. His relationship with the team’s owner, George Steinbrenner, became strained to the point that it began affecting his managerial performance. Despite the turmoil, Martin achieved considerable success during his 16 seasons as a manager, clinching five division titles with four different teams, two league pennants, and even capturing a World Series championship.

Yankees legend Billy Martin

Billy Martin’s playing career

Alfred Manuel Martin, born on May 16, 1929, in Berkeley, California, had a tumultuous family background. His mother, Jenny, was a resilient and streetwise woman, while his father, also named Alfred Manuel Martin, was absent from their lives due to infidelity. In fact, Billy Martin did not meet his father until the age of 15, and their encounter served primarily to sever any potential connection. Growing up in the flats of the western part of the East Bay city, Martin’s upbringing contrasted starkly with the prominent university located uphill. As a tough and energetic youth from the streets, he found his outlet in the game of baseball, starting his journey in sandlot games at the age of nine.

Upon completing high school at Berkeley High School in 1946, Billy Martin embarked on his baseball career, joining the Idaho Falls team in the Class D Pioneer League. During his 32 games with the team, he achieved a batting average of .254.

In the latter part of the 1947 season, Martin became part of the Oakland Oaks team. This marked his first experience playing under the leadership of Casey Stengel, who not only managed the team but also became a strong supporter and a father figure to Martin. When Stengel transitioned to become the manager of the New York Yankees in 1949, he brought Billy Martin to New York the following year. Martin played in 34 games, maintaining a batting average of .250. Notably, Joe DiMaggio, a renowned player, treated Martin with respect and the two even formed a friendship.

By 1951, DiMaggio had retired, and Mickey Mantle had joined the team, signaling the start of both achievements and challenges in Billy Martin’s tenure with the Yankees. His standout year was 1953, where he achieved a batting average of .257 and drove in 75 runs. It was the only time Martin exceeded 50 runs batted in (RBI), and he played remarkably during the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Billy Martin was known for his tough and confrontational on-field demeanor during his playing days, earning him nicknames such as “The Brat” and “Billy the Kid.” Off the field, he was known for his nocturnal outings, often in the company of Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. Nevertheless, during Martin’s time with the team, the Yankees enjoyed significant success. The only season they did not secure the American League pennant between 1950 and 1957 was in 1954, when Martin was serving in the military.

Despite the Yankees‘ success with Billy Martin on the team, the general manager, George Weiss, believed that his partying habits negatively influenced players like Mantle and Ford. Weiss held Martin accountable for a well-publicized incident at the Copacabana. On May 16, 1957, several Yankees players gathered to celebrate Martin’s 29th birthday. Although it was Hank Bauer who engaged in a nightclub altercation, and players like Mantle and Ford were also part of Martin’s late-night escapades, Weiss disregarded the team’s manager, Casey Stengel. Instead, Weiss traded Martin to Kansas City just a month later.

Following his departure from New York, Martin spent approximately four and a half seasons playing for various teams. He moved from the Athletics to the Tigers, then to the Indians, and subsequently to the Reds, the Brewers, and finally the Twins. During this time, the most notable incident occurred when he attacked Jim Brewer, a left-handed pitcher for the Cubs, resulting in a broken jaw and a nine-year lawsuit.

Throughout his ten-season career, Billy Martin’s batting average ranged from .242 to .267. In 1955, he had a standout performance with a .300 batting average, albeit in just 20 games.

Billy’s managerial career

After concluding his playing career in 1961, Billy Martin transitioned to coaching with the Twins and managed at the Triple-A level in Denver for a year. In 1969, he was promoted to lead the main Twins team and achieved a divisional title with an impressive record of 97 wins and 65 losses. However, his tenure in Minnesota was cut short after just one season. He was dismissed primarily due to an incident involving pitcher Dave Boswell, who was injured during an altercation in a bar in which Martin became involved.

Following his departure from Minnesota, Billy Martin moved on to manage the Detroit Tigers from 1971 to 1973. The Tigers secured a divisional title in 1972, but Martin’s managerial career with the team came to an end during his third season. He was let go because he had instructed his pitchers to intentionally throw the ball at opposing players, which was in response to Gaylord Perry’s use of spitballs. Subsequently, in 1973, Billy Martin briefly managed the Texas Rangers, leading them to a significant improvement from last place to a second-place finish in 1974. Unfortunately, he was fired from his managerial role with the team in 1975.

A significant and dramatic episode unfolded in the Bronx involving Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner. This scenario featured a manager who sought approval and wore the Yankees’ uniform with pride but clashed with an owner known for his inclination to dismiss managers.

Yankees manager Billy Martin with owner George Steinbrenner
Chicago Tribune

Billy Martin became the Yankees’ manager for the final 56 games of the 1975 season, with the team finishing in third place. The following year, he guided the Yankees to an impressive record of 97 wins and 62 losses, earning them a spot in the World Series. However, they lost all the games, and the Cincinnati Reds emerged as the champions.

Despite the Yankees securing their first pennant in 12 years, George Steinbrenner initiated several changes during the offseason that Billy Martin disagreed with. The most significant change was the acquisition of Reggie Jackson, whose strong personality clashed with Martin’s.

Jackson frequently emphasized his importance and took credit for making the team exciting, even going so far as to celebrate himself. Some players collaborated with the team’s management to create difficulties for Billy Martin. Tensions escalated in 1977, particularly during a series in Boston, where a physical confrontation between Martin and Jackson was narrowly averted.

Despite the internal turmoil, the Yankees managed to win the pennant with an impressive record of 100 wins and 62 losses, securing their first World Series victory in 15 years by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

In 1978, turmoil persisted in the Bronx. The Yankees were outperformed by the Boston Red Sox, and various issues plagued the team. Jackson often ignored the team’s signals, and Steinbrenner publicly discussed trading Billy Martin for another manager while accusing him of excessive drinking. The situation deteriorated further around late July when Billy Martin publicly criticized Jackson and Steinbrenner, leading to his voluntary resignation with tears in his eyes.

However, during the Old-Timers Day event, it was announced that Lemon, who had taken over as manager, would transition to a different role in the front office in 1980, with Billy Martin returning to manage the team once again.

This plan underwent several changes, and Billy Martin returned to manage the final 95 games of the 1979 season. In October, he was involved in a physical altercation with Joseph Cooper, a marshmallow vendor. Following this incident, he was dismissed by Steinbrenner, marking the second time he was let go.

Billy Martin of the New York Yankees

Billy Martin then took a break from managing and later coached the Oakland Athletics, where he popularized a playing style known as “Billyball,” emphasizing aggressive base running. In 1981, he led his team to victory in the A.L. West during a split season.

However, in 1982, tensions arose between Billy Martin and the management, resulting in a decline in the team’s performance with 68 wins and 94 losses, ultimately leading to his dismissal. Martin returned as the Yankees’ manager in 1983, where he became embroiled in a highly controversial incident involving the “Pine Tar Game” on July 24, 1983. After a disputed home run by George Brett of the Kansas City Royals, Martin pointed out Brett’s excessive use of pine tar on his bat to the umpires. The home run was subsequently disallowed, and the game became the subject of a protest by the Royals. American League President Lee MacPhail ruled in favor of the Royals, and the game was scheduled to be resumed on August 18, 1983. The Yankees initially required fans to pay full admission to witness the conclusion of the game, leading to a lawsuit by a group of fans. Eventually, the Yankees permitted free entry to fans with stubs from the original game and offered discounted tickets for those wishing to purchase new tickets. Only 1,200 people attended the resumption of the game, which ended with the Royals leading 5-4.

Billy Martin continued to manage the Yankees for the entire 1983 season, finishing third with a record of 91 wins and 71 losses. He also managed the team for most of the 1985 season and a significant portion of the 1988 season.

After parting ways with the Yankees in 1988, Martin remained on the team’s payroll as a special consultant. Unfortunately, he passed away on Christmas Day in 1989 in a car accident near his home in Fenton, New York. Billy Martin was 61 years old at the time of his death.

The legacy

Billy Martin, a prominent figure in the world of baseball, made a significant impact both as a player for the New York Yankees during the 1950s and as a manager for five different major-league teams. Known for his brash, bold, and fearless approach, Martin was a fierce competitor who left an indelible mark on the sport.

As a player, Martin’s tenacity and unwavering dedication to the game set him apart. He played hard and never made excuses for his actions, whether on or off the field. His fiery personality and relentless pursuit of excellence made him a standout figure in baseball history. Many, including his at times contentious boss, George Steinbrenner, regarded Martin as a baseball genius due to his intuitive and astute approach to managing his teams.

When asked about Martin’s managerial skills, former Yankees manager Casey Stengel, who had known Billy since his minor league days in Oakland, lauded him in an interview with The Sporting News on August 23, 1975. Stengel stated, “He’s a good manager. He might be a little selfish about some things he does, and he may think he knows more about baseball than anybody else, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was right.” Stengel’s admiration for Martin as a player was evident when he mentioned, “If liking a kid who never let you down in the clutch is favoritism, then I plead guilty.”

Despite his reputation for being difficult, irascible, and pugnacious, Martin commanded respect as a manager. In 1987, a poll of 600 former players ranked him eighth among some illustrious figures in baseball history. He trailed luminaries such as Stengel, Joe McCarthy, Walter Alston, John McGraw, Connie Mack, Earl Weaver, and Al Lopez, but surpassed renowned managers like Whitey Herzog, Sparky Anderson, and Tommy Lasorda.

Billy Martin’s contributions to the Yankees were so significant that on August 10, 1986, the team retired his jersey number 1 and dedicated a plaque with his likeness at Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. The plaque honored him with the words, “There has never been a greater competitor than Billy.” During the dedication, an emotional Martin expressed his pride, saying, “I may not have been the greatest Yankee to ever put on the uniform, but I was the proudest.”

While his on-field achievements were celebrated, Martin’s off-field escapades became legendary during his tenure as a major-league manager. He found himself in numerous altercations, involving fights with team officials, bar patrons, a cab driver, a marshmallow salesman, various fans, and even two of his own pitchers.

In 1988, the Elias Sports Bureau declared Martin the best manager in major league history based on an analysis that revealed his teams won 7.45 more games per year than predicted by statistics. He was the first manager to lead four different teams to the postseason, a record that remained unbroken until 2012 and unsurpassed until 2020. Martin’s innovative tactics, such as stealing home, caught opponents off guard and contributed to his teams’ success. Jaffe noted that Martin was able to create a unique team culture and set the tone he desired, leading his teams to victory. His intuitive and unconventional approach to managing made him a baseball genius in the eyes of many, including his at times challenging boss, George Steinbrenner.

Greatest Moments

  • AL All-Star (1956)
  • Won five World Series with the New York Yankees (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 & 1956; he did not play in the 1950 World Series)
  • ML Manager of the Year Award (1981)
  • Division Titles: 6 (1969, 1972, 1976, 1977 & 1981)
  • AL Pennants: 2 (1976 & 1977)
  • Managed one World Series Champion with the New York Yankees in 1977
  • 100 Wins Seasons as Manager: 1 (1977)


How did Billy Martin die?

Martin was killed in a single car accident

How many professional baseball teams did Billy Martin manage?

Five different teams

When did Billy Martin die?

December 25, 1989

Who was with Billy Martin when he died?

Martin’s friend Bill Reedy

When did Billy Martin coach Oakland?

1980 to 1982

How many time did Billy Martin get fired from the Yankees?

Five times

Who did Billy Martin replace as manager?

Lou Piniella

What year did Billy Martin play for the Detroit Tigers?


Where was Billy Martin born?

Berkeley, California, United States

Who was in the first light beer commercial Billy Martin or Bubba Smith?

Al, Jefferson, and the entire bar engaged in a heated argument about who featured in the initial Lite Beer commercial: Bubba Smith or Billy Martin. While it’s true that both of these athletes made appearances in Lite Beer commercials during the 1970s, neither of them were the pioneers. The distinction of being the first goes to former New York Jets fullback Matt Snell, who graced the screen in 1973.

Where is Billy Martin buried?

Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY.

Why did bruce froeming throw out Billy Martin in 1976 world series?

Martin threw a ball from the dugout, and it veered towards home plate umpire Bill Deegan. In response, Froemming promptly ejected Martin from his spot at first base.

How old was Billy Martin when he died?

61 years

Who was killed with Billy Martin in the accident?

William F. Reedy, Who Was Injured in Crash

How many times did George Steinbrenner hire and fire Billy Martin?

Five separate times

When was George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin on letterman?

April 16, 1987

Was Billy Martin intoxicated when he died?

Martin was dead from a broken neck two feet away

Who admitted to betting on baseball while he was the manager of the cincinnati reds? Billy Martin

Pete Rose

What is Billy Martin signed baseball worth?

Billy Martin typically ranged in price from $100 to $300 or more

Why isn’t Billy Martin in the Hall of Fame?

He has no business being in the Hall of Fame. His conduct was an embarrassment to baseball.

What was Billy Martin yankee number?


Where was Billy Martin in 1960?

Cincinnati Reds

What is the Billy Martin?

Alfred Manuel Martin Jr., more commonly known as “Billy,” was an American Major League Baseball second baseman and manager. He not only managed various other teams but also served as the New York Yankees’ manager on five separate occasions.

How man world series did Billy Martin manage?

One World Series

What position did Billy Martin play?

Second baseman

Who hired and fired Billy Martin?

George Steinbrenner

When did Billy Martin manage the Yankees?

Martin managed the New York Yankees five different times between 1975 and 1988

Was Billy Martin drunk when he died?


What year did Billy Martin join the Yankees?


Which pitcher had a fight with Billy Martin on the Yankees?

Eddie Lee Whitson

Why did George Steinbrenner fire Billy Martin 5 times?

Usually amid a well-publicized scandal such as Martin’s involvement in an alcohol-fueled fight

How many ejections Billy Martin?


Where did Billy Martin grew up?

Martin grew up in the western flatlands of the East Bay city

Who wrote the Billy Martin biography?

Author Bill Pennington has written what is and will always undoubtedly be the definitive biography of Billy Martin.

Who drove Billy Martin to church on an away game?

Lewis Figone

What year did Billy Martin stop managing?


What was the date Billy Martin died?

December 25, 1989

Who did the New York Yankees get when they traded Billy Martin to kansas city in 1957?

Ryne Duren, Jim Pisoni, and Harry Simpson

The game in which Reggie Jackson is thrown out by Billy Martin?

Playing a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 18, 1977

How is Jeremiah Brent related to Billy Martin?

He hasn’t confirmed that he is related to Billy Martin

What prompted Jackson Billy Martin fight?

Martin was upset by Jackson’s lack of hustle on balls hit to the superstar in right field.

How much does a 1981 Billy Martin card go for?

Around $20 or more

Who was the umpire that Billy Martin kicked dirt on?

Dale Scott

What is Billy Martin hat?

Billy Martin wore this navy blue New York Yankees cap c. 1975-1979 while managing the team. This blue cap has a white “NY” logo embroidered on the front.

How tall was Billy Martin?

1.8 m

Who did the New York Yankees get when they traded Billy Martin to Kansas City?

Ryne Duren, Jim Pisoni, and Harry (Suitcase) Simpson

What is a Billy Martin autograph worth?

Around $50 to several hundred dollars or more

Who did Billy Martin replace as manager in 78?

Bill Virdon

The Stats


Billy Martin’s Standard Batting record

1950343936109101800330.250.3080.3610.6697313000 04H/5
19515165581015120201490.2590.3280.3450.6738520521 04H/658
195210940136332971333333622310.2670.3230.3440.66891125888 6*4/H
19531496455877215124615756743560.2570.3140.3950.71942321969 3*46/H
1954Did not play in major or minor leagues (Military Service)
11 Yrs102137193419425877137286433334291883550.2570.30.3690.6698112629632552317 
162 Game Avg.1625905426713922410535530560.2570.30.3690.669812001559 3 
NYY (7 yrs)5271888171722044970183018819201121780.2620.3130.3760.688886454820291010 
MIN (1 yr)10839837444921556363213420.2460.2750.3610.6366613593530 
CIN (1 yr)10334731734781713160127340.2460.3040.3340.63974106110215 
CLE (1 yr)73259242376370924028180.260.290.4010.691919753422 
MLN (1 yr)66610000000010000-100000000 
DET (1 yr)131536498561271917425316620.2550.2790.3390.619651691631360 
KCA (1 yr)732852653368939277112200.2570.2950.4150.719211073210 
AL (10 yrs)91233663096390799120276131734281613200.2580.30.3730.6738211568532532212 
NL (2 yrs)10935332335781713160127350.2410.2990.3280.62771106110215 
Billy Martin of the New York Yankees

Postseason Batting

1950Did not play in series                        
19511001000000000    0 00  00.00%
19527262325001401220.2170.3080.3480.6568010 1-0.32-18.50%
195362524512122812120.50.520.9581.47823100 00.6926.90%
5 Yrs (5 Series)2810599153323519155150.3330.3710.5660.93756410010.374.00%
6 WS2810599153323519155150.3330.3710.5660.93756410010.374.00%

Career graph

Hall of FameAll-Star GamesAwardsMVP (rank, share)
1967 BBWAA ( 0.3%)1956 *1953 AL Babe Ruth Award1953 AL (25, 1%)
0.01 Career Shares (1646th)
Defensive WARAt BatsPlate AppearancesHit By Pitch
1952 AL 2.2 (2nd)1953 AL 587 (8th)1953 AL 645 (10th)1952 AL 8 (4th)
1953 AL 6 (5th)
Sacrifice HitsSacrifice FliesDouble Plays Grounded IntoCaught Stealing
1956 AL 8 (7th)
1958 AL 13 (1st)
1958 AL 6 (8th)1953 AL 19 (4th)1953 AL 7 (6th)
Power-Speed #Outs MadeDef. Games as 2BPutouts as 2B
1953 AL 8.6 (9th)1953 AL 471 (5th)1952 AL 107 (4th)
1953 AL 146 (3rd)
1956 AL 105 (4th)
1952 AL 244 (5th)
1953 AL 376 (3rd)
1956 AL 241 (4th)
Assists as 2BErrors Committed as 2BDouble Plays Turned as 2BErrors Committed as SS
1952 AL 323 (5th)
1953 AL 390 (4th)
1956 AL 260 (5th)
1957 AL 10 (5th)
1961 AL 17 (5th)
1952 AL 92 (4th)
1953 AL 121 (1st)
1956 AL 84 (2nd)
1958 AL 17 (5th)
Total Zone Runs as 2B (s.1953)Range Factor/9Inn as 2BRange Factor/Game as 2BFielding % as 2B
1955 AL 4 (3rd)
1959 AL 4 (5th)
1952 AL 5.67 (2nd)
1953 AL 5.66 (4th)
1956 AL 5.15 (4th)
1952 AL 5.30 (3rd)
1953 AL 5.25 (5th)
1956 AL 4.77 (4th)
1960 NL 4.48 (5th)
1952 AL .984 (2nd)
1953 AL .985 (2nd)
1956 AL .980 (2nd)

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