“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Billy Martin said. He was in second grade.
Billy Martin is a story of contrasts. He was the “other” second baseman in New York in the 1950s, playing nearly every fall opposite Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson. He spent sixteen seasons managing in the big leagues and is considered by anyone who knows the sport to have been a true baseball genius, a field manager without peer. Yet he’s remembered more for his habit of kicking dirt at umpires, for being hired and fired by George Steinbrenner five separate times, for his rabble-rousing and public brawls on the field and off. He was combative, fiery, intimidating, bombastic, and yet endearing and beloved by the everyday fan. He was hard on his players and even harder on himself. But he knew how to turn around a losing team like no one else. And how to entertain us every step of the way.
Drawing on exhaustive interviews with friends, family, teammates, players, and countless adversaries -- and his own time covering Martin as a young sportswriter -- Bill Pennington paints an indelible portrait of a man who never backed down for the game he loved. From his upbringing in a broken home surrounded by a shantytown to his days on the Yankees in the 1950s, where he found success as a scrappy clutch player, through sixteen years of managing, including his legendary, often fraught tenure at the helm of the Yankees, Billy Martin made sure no one ever ignored him. And indeed no one could. He was the hero, the antihero, and the alter ego -- or some combination of all three -- for his short sixty-one years among us.
Bill Pennington is an award-winning sportswriter for “The New York Times.” A former syndicated columnist, Pennington was a beat writer who covered much of Billy Martin's tenure with the New York Yankees.
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