Martin's Managerial Skills Unmentioned by Chroniclers

By Nichols, Max | THE JOURNAL RECORD, January 3, 1990 | Go to article overview

Martin's Managerial Skills Unmentioned by Chroniclers


Nichols, Max, THE JOURNAL RECORD


After reading over and over about the brawling, drinking and obsession with winning of Billy Martin, former New York Yankee baseball manager, since his death last week, I feel compelled to tell the story of the Billy Martin I knew for 30 years.

Oh, I knew the combative side of Martin all right. I saw several of his fights during the 10 years I traveled with the Minnesota Twins, and I broke the story of his battle with a marshmallow salesman. Having once argued with him for two hours on an elevator, I knew how scary he could be.

I also saw his drinking bouts, the fury of his raging battles with New York Yankee President George Steinbrenner and his unceasing struggle to finish first. None of that has been exaggerated. Having grown up on the Oakland waterfront, he was a street fighter with no ethics.

It's what the sports chroniclers left out that surprises me. Martin's detailed approach to managing, skill in motivating men and ability to develop pride could have been utilized by the corporate world if he would have overcome his drinking. He also could be loveable with a pixie delight in practical jokes, and he was a helluva cook.

Those sides of Martin have been forgotten in the tragedy of his personal life and his death in a truck crash.

Martin was still a player in 1961, when I first met him. It was his last year, though he was only 33. After seven spectacular years with the Yankees, he had been traded several times - finally to the Twins. I was in my first year as a young baseball writer for the Minneapolis Star.

He was hitting only .242 and furious with himself, but not about the batting average. His cheekbone had been crushed by a pitched ball, and he was backing away from inside curveballs. He told me how much that hurt his pride, and I was the first one to write about it.

Some colleagues expected me to feel his wrath, but he thanked me for writing the truth. I learned that day to stick with fairness and the truth. It was a lesson that helped me through hundreds of difficult times in reporting on sports and then business - including several with Martin.

He retired as a player during spring training of 1962, after helping rookie Bernie Allen learn enough to replace him at second base. That was my first glimpse of Martin as a teacher - one of his most important attributes.

He started his post-playing career as a scout and instructor of young players in the Twins system. In 1964, he was hired by President Calvin Griffith to coach third base and "light a fire'' under the Twins, who had tied for sixth in 1964. He did.

They won the American League pennant in 1965 with the same team, including six home run sluggers led by Harmon Killebrew. Martin added daring baserunning, and he personally coached Zoilo Versalles to the Most Valuable Player award.

Versalles had great talent at shortstop but could not remember how to play hitters. Martin patiently went over every hitter with Versalles before every game and between innings. I will never forget how he taught Versalles to use his speed on the bases.

"He made it simple,'' Versalles once said. "He told me to get to first base as fast as I could on every base hit and look for the ball. If it was still on the grass in the outfield, I went to second base.''

Versalles hit 45 doubles that year, including 22 when the ball was on the ground in front of outfielders. Martin described the essence of his philosophy in what later became known as "Billy Ball" when he managed.

"The idea is to force the perfect play,'' he said. "Human beings just aren't good enough to make the perfect play every time.''

In the midst of the pennant race, Martin's tendency toward controversy also came out in a feud with pitching coach Johnny Sain. When I reported the problems, Martin accused me of trying to hurt the club.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Martin's Managerial Skills Unmentioned by Chroniclers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.