This Date in New Yawk Mets’ History 4/20

April 19, 2021 at 6:25 pm (Comfortably Zoned, This Date in New Yawk Mets' History)

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Comfortably Zoned in a Vat o’ Pine Tar

April 19, 2021 at 3:25 pm (Comfortably Zoned in a Vat o' Pine Tar)

Once again, I’m teasing the upcoming book I’m writing with the great George Grimm.

Yankee Legends

Joe, Mickey, Whitey and Billy

“Joe DiMaggio was hard only because we didn’t want to screw anything up. We went out of our way to make everything perfect for Joe because he was very sensitive. It was almost as if he came to the game looking for something to irritate him.”

Marty Appel

Marty Appel – Yankees Old Timers

7/21/16

Ralph Tyko and panelists Alan Blumkin and Marty Rose welcome author and long-time Yankee front office executive Marty Appel. Topics include Marty’s role in putting together the Yankee’s annual Old Timers Day and his latest book, “Pinstripe Pride.”

Ralph Tyko: Marty, you worked for the Yankees for many years and one of your responsibilities was to bring together all those old timers from all over the country so that they could have another moment in the sun at Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium.

Marty Appel: My favorite part of working for the Yankee was having to put together those Old Timers Days. Mostly because I was such a big fane before I went to work for them. I started in 1968 so there were still Yankees from the 20’s and 30’s that were still around. We used to do half Yankees and half opponents which was fun because it was a challenge to get vintage uniforms for them to wear. But we would get guys like Frankie Frisch, Bill Terry and Stan Musial. It  was just great to bring these people in to New York and have them there for Old Timers Day.

The fans really reacted to Old Timers Day. They bought tickets largely in advance because they really wanted to make sure they were in there for that game.

For me it was always the introductions and the applause that was the most satisfying thing. I was never a big fan of the game, I didn’t like seeing the guys fall down or look bad or risk injury

Ralph Tyko: One of my friends, Joe DeMaestri came back for an Old Timers Day and ripped his Achilles tendon,

Marty Appel: I always worried about them, they didn’t work out, they weren’t in slape, they were long retired and they didn’t want to embarrass themselves so they would maybe try a little harder. And if one of them would have gotten seriously hurt people would have risen up and started asking if we really needed to play these games.

Marty Rose:  How did you keep track of all the invitees and travel and hotel arrangements?

Marty Appel: Well I would have a master checklist on my desk, because I was doing this as the regular season went on. It would include everything from travel arrangements to making sure the hotel was booked, to making sure you had borrowed a uniform from another team. We also had Louisville Slugger bats customized for each player. So there were so many things on that checklist but each was a joy and delight in it’s own way.

Ralph Tyko: Who were the easiest and hardest guys to bring back?

Marty Appel: The easiest were the local guys who just drove to the stadium. Whitey Ford would always turn in an expense request showing the 50 cent toll for the bridge.

Joe DiMaggio was hard only because we didn’t want to screw anything up. We went out of our way to make everything perfect for Joe because he was very sensitive. It was almost as if he came to the game looking for something to irritate him.

The order of introduction is another story. The last introduction is considered the honored spot and one year Mickey Mantle was introduced after Joe DiMaggio and Joe was so upset with what he saw as an insult that he threatened not to come back again.

But the reality was that these games meant as much to Joe as they did to the fans. He retired in 1951 and from 1952 to 1999 he only missed one Old Timers Day and that a because he was recovering from surgery. So it was a very big deal for Joe to be invited and treated like royalty.  

The year he was introduced next to last, in 1969, we had Mickey Mantle Day just a few weeks before. It was a huge day and Mickey got such an incredible ovation. So then at Old Timers Day we introduced Mickey next to last and Joe last, but since Mick was so popular and  his fans were younger and more vocal, they totally drowned out Joe’s introduction, so that when Frank Messer called out Joe DiMaggio you couldn’t hear anything he said amid the Mantle cheers which were still going on.

So, after the event was over we huddled around and though maybe we should introduce Joe next to last so he can get his proper introduction and applause and then bring out Mickey. And it made a lot of sense at the time, but we had no idea how insulted Joe would get, so we did it just that one year, 1970 and it was a disaster from a public relations standpoint because of Joe’s reaction to it. And we had to work hard to persuade him to come back in 1971

Allan Blumkin: Describe the personalities of Allie Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, and Vic Raschi.

Marty Appel: Eddie Lopat was an easy going guy. He was a local guy who paid his own 50 cent bridge toll. He was always a delight and he was always around the Stadium because it always seemed he had a scouting position with someone. So we knew Eddie well and he was a lot of fun and a lot like Whitey Ford, a very easy going guy and a pleasure to be around.

Allie Reynolds was very business-like. He was the president of the American Association, and player rep during the early days of the union. So you wanted to make sure you got everything right with Allie because he expected everything to be in order.

And Vic Raschi had been traded by the Yankees to the Cards in 1954 during a salary dispute with George Weiss, after a brilliant career in New York. And it still left a little bit of bad feeling for him. He was never really happy with the way his Yankee career ended, so there was a little bit of a chip on his shoulder when he would come back for Old Timers Day. He would pose for pictures with Reynolds and Lopat and get cheered and honored, but he knew that his Yankee career ended on a bad note and that always lingered for him. Incidentally when Raschi went to the Cards, he gave up Hank Aaron’s first home run.

Alan Blumkin: He also gave up Whitey Ford’s first home run in 1955 when he was pitching for the Kansas City A’s.

Ralph Tyko:  I would guess that you have some Billy Martin, Old Timers Day stories?

Marty Appel: The first Old Timers Day where Billy was prominent was in 1975 when he replaced Bill Virdon as manager.  We were playing at Shea Stadium and Martin had ben fired by the Texas Rangers a few weeks earlier.  We did not invite Martin to Old Timers Day because Gabe Paul our GM felt we shouldn’t invite active managers or coaches from other teams because it would have been disruptive.

So the Rangers came to Shea Stadium in May or June of that season and I was summoned to Martin’s office in the visiting clubhouse. Billy says ‘I understand your invitations for Old Timers Day went out and I’m not on them! I gotta be there, I’m a Yankee!” So I told him, ‘Billy, I have no dispute with you on that but Gabe Paul has a policy of not inviting active managers.’ So Billy said, ‘Well the hell with that. I wanna be there. You make sure I get invited.’ So even though I was gonna discuss it with Gabe Paul, I told Billy okay, because I didn’t want him to punch me out right there. And as soon as I said ‘Okay,’ he said, ‘And don’t forget Charlie Silvera my coach!’

In the end the Gabe Paul Rule won out and Billy and Charlie were not invited. So I wasn’t looking forward to the next time I saw Billy Martin.

But the next time I saw him was after he was fired by Texas and the Yankees had hired him. Gabe Paul flew out to Colorado to track him down and make him an offer. And when he showed up on Old Timers Day, he said to me, ‘See I told you I’d be here.’

And then the next time he got fired there was a public backlash. Mr. Steinbrenner felt that backlash and decided to recant the firing and bring Billy back and announce on Old Timers Day that he would succeed Bob Lemon in another year.  Which of course was news to Bob Lemon since no one had though to tell him about the plan. Those were the Bronx Zoo years and one was crazier than the next.

Alan Blumkin: What was it like to bring Roger Maris and Jim Bouton back for Old Timers Day?

Marty Appel: Roger Maris was a reluctant guest because he felt he’d be booed, because his reputation with the fans in New York was bad. I used to call him every year and invite him. He was always very nice to me. He’d say, ‘Marty, I appreciate the call but what do I need that for. Why do I have to go back there and hear the boos,’ and I would tell him that a lot has changed, and I really think the fans love you now. So that went on for a number of years

Then one year, George Steinbrenner, who can be a very persuasive guy, called him and persuaded him to come to opening day the following year with Mickey Mantle to raise the pennant on the flagpole and after that he came back every year for Old Timers Day.

There was a tremendous ovation the first time he came back with Mickey and he always enjoyed coming back and seeing old teammates and I’m glad that he had that experience during the last five or six years of his life.

Jim Bouton was different. He was only invited back a couple of times. He had lost his son to a car accident and his daughter wrote a letter to the Yankees about how much it would mean to him to come back. I once asked him if he had any regrets about writing the book considering that it meant he’d be excluded from things like this in his post baseball life.  He said, ‘I didn’t need the book, I would have been excluded from everything anyway!’

Ralph Tyko: Gil McDougald was one of my favorite all time players. He was an All-Star at three positions, second, third and shortstop and started for the Yankees at those positions during those championship years.  

Marty Appel: He was local, lived in New Jersey and coached baseball at Fordham University. He was just a regular guy. He retired instead of be drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the expansion draft. One thing you may not know is that  in spring training 1957 Gil was hit in the head with a line drive that caused him to lose his hearing, and this happened just weeks before his line drive severely injured Herb Score.

Alan Blumkin: What were Hank Bauer and Gene Woodling like?

Marty Appel: They were two very likeable guys, Woodling was a little less enamored of the whole Yankee mystique. Baseball was his business, his job. He wasn’t happy to be platooned by Casey because it kept his salary down. So he was anxious to move on and he never thought of himself as a Yankee hero. He played wherever his paycheck was coming from and he was fine with that.

He told me a great story. He was on the five straight Yankee Championships under Casey and then at the end of his career he was on the 1962 Mets with Casey again. He was sitting in the dugout and they were getting hammered 15-2 and Casey was pacing up and down the dugout and he stopped and winked at him and said, ‘This ain’t like the old days is it?’

Hank Bauer was a ballplayer’s ballplayer. Probably the most underrated of all those Yankees from the 1950s. A gutsy guy on the field, a great Yankee, and a former Marine. He was a leadoff hitter and really ran well. he didn’t look like a speedster, but he had great instincts on the basepaths. He wound up managing the Baltimore Oriole to a World Championship, so he probably could have been  a great Yankee manager if the timing had been right. But it was always a pleasure to deal with him.

Ralph Tyko: How about Irv Noren, another of my favorites.

Marty Appel: Irv’s another guy that Billy Martin used to rescue and give coaching jobs to along the way.

Casey liked him Irv lot and he went to bat for him. One year he played hurt a lot of the time and then there was a deal in the works where he was going to be traded. Casey went to George Weiss the GM and said, ‘You can’t take his World Series money away from him after he played his heart out for us while he was injured. Let him have this season.’ So he wasn’t traded and he got a World Series share that meant to much to the players back then.

Ralph Tyko: Interesting that Casey would go to bat for Irv Noren, but he didn’t stop Weiss from trading Billy Martin after the Copa incident and Billy was know to one of Casey’s favorites.

Marty Appel: Billy always resented that Casey didn’t stick up for him and Casey used to tell his close friends that Billy made too much of that. This is his profession, his business, players get traded, grow up.

Marty Rose: What about the real Yogi Berra, not the caricature he has been made out to be.

Marty Appel: He was the same guy. Yogi was a very moral, decent man, very family orientated. He did say most of those things that have been attributed to him, or if he didn’t, he would have because that was the way he talked. I may have been there for one of his last Yogi-isms. I went to visit him three weeks before he died, in an assisted living facility in New Jersey. I stayed for about an hour and when it was time to go he turned to the nurse who was in the room and asked her what time the 3:30 mass started?

Alan Blumkin: How about the Scooter?

Marty Appel: Where do we begin. One of the most memorable characters of my lifetime and one of my heroes growing up. At one point I became Phil’s boss because I was the executive producer of the telecasts for a while.

Sometimes those weren’t good days because sometimes Phil could be a little testy as an employee and so we had words, but who’s kidding who? I may have been the boss, but Phil ran the show. He left in the seventh inning when he wanted to, he slipped out of the booth to see an old friend and turned the announcing over to whoever his partner was that night. And all you could do was shake your head and say, what a lovable character!

The Yankee Clipper – Tony Castro

Author Tony Castro and Ralph Tyko, discuss the life and times of the enigmatic, Joe DiMaggio, the Yankee Clipper and his relationship with Mickey Mantle.

Ralph Tyko: Tony, would you say that Joe DiMaggio was the greatest player of his generation?

Tony Castro: A lot of people would argue for Ted Williams, who was also of that generation and a pretty decent ballplayer himself.

Ralph Tyko: That’s been the classic argument over the years. But Williams, although he was an incredible hitter, was kind of one-dimensional. Whereas, DiMaggio made everything look so damn easy out there on the field. He actually hit more home runs than the number of times he struck out in his career. That in itself is an incredible stat!

Tony Castro:  I was introduced to Joe DiMaggio by my old man. I was born in 1946 and so by then Joe had already had his greatest year in 1941 when he hit safely in 56 straight games, a record that I believe will never be broken. And then after that streak was broken, he hit in another 20-odd consecutive games.

Joe lost three years to the service during World War II and Ted Williams also lost three or four years while serving in World War II as well as the Korean conflict. So as great as they were, as great as their numbers were, can you imagine if their careers hadn’t been interrupted by the wars.

Ralph Tyko: DiMaggio played a lot of baseball while in the service, but Williams flew missions in World War II with John Glenn. Can you imagine that?

What did your dad tell you about DiMaggio?

Tony Castro: My dad said he was the most incredible ball player he’d ever seen. He saw him a few times in Yankee Stadium.

I grew up in Waco, Texas, so there was no Major League Baseball there at that time, The closest team was the St. Louis Cardinals. But we had a couple of big posters of DiMaggio and Williams on the wall in the den and then one day my dad came home with a picture of Mickey Mantle, looking like the kid next door and my dad said that people were saying that he was going to be as great as DiMaggio.

So that was the transition. Dad thought that no one could hold a candle to DiMaggio. God, Family and Baseball were his three priorities in life. But my mom used to say that he read them up from the bottom up!

Ralph Tyko: The old Tommy Lasorda line, “My wife says I love baseball more than I love her, so I told her yes, but I love you more than I love hockey!”

Tony Castro: DiMaggio had an aura about him, partly due to what he did in 1941 but partly because of radio. Since there was no television, you mostly saw only still newspaper pictures of him while you read about his exploits.  

The only time I ever saw DiMaggio was at Old Timers games at Yankee Stadium. And he’d be out there against these much older players who could barely run to first base, and he would hit a 450-foot home run to left field and you’d say, God, he can still do it! And he still looked fit and trim.  

Ralph Tyko: Did DiMaggio and Mantle get along?

Tony Castro: The only year they played together was in 1951, Mickey’s rookie year and Joe’s final season. And up until I wrote “Mickey Mantle, America’s Prodigal Son,” in 2004, even at that time I thought that these guys really didn’t get along. But DiMaggio denied it as did some of his friends. And then I was able to get in touch with a woman named Holly Brooke who was the love of Mickey Mantle’s life.  And she told me stories of how she and Mickey would go out on the town in New York and Mickey was already being treated like a star.  based on his preseason performance in 1951. And she said that he and DiMaggio had dined together several times. She was there, she had witnessed it. And about that same time, I had taken a trip to Cooperstown and was going through some old files and found a recording that took place in April, right before the 1951 season was to begin. The Yankees were at a train station heading for New York and Mantle and DiMaggio were being interviewed by someone from an old CBS radio show. But before the interview began they had a live mic on and there is this banter going back and forth between a young squeaky voiced Mantle and the older experienced DiMaggio giving him advice. And the reason that this is so important is that there are many stories that say that they didn’t speak to each other until much later in the season. One story even has it that they didn’t speak until the second game of the World Series in 1951 when Mickey tore up his knee while chasing a ball that he didn’t think that DiMaggio would get to. At the last second DiMaggio called him off and Mantle stepped on a water sprinkler cover and went down like he had been shot. His career was never the same after that.

Ralph Tyko: It was a ball hit by Willie Mays as a matter of fact.

Tony Castro: And so Joe went over to Mickey to see if he was alright and one biography said that was the first time the two had spoken all season. But how could that be?

Ralph Tyko: No, you don’t spend a year together on trains and busses and in locker rooms and not speak to one another. That’s ridiculous, plus you had that recording of those guys bantering at the train station.

Tony Castro: So there’s a lot of fiction involved in their relationship. Mickey did not get physically ill when Joe would show up for Old Timers days in the 1950s. That just didn’t happen according to players who were there. And some of the people I spoke to said that you had a situation on the Yankees where you still had a few players who had played with DiMaggio who had gotten to the point where they really resented Joe over the years. He always made the most money and also received special treatment.

You know Mickey had the reputation as being the ultimate teammate, it’s even on his grave stone. But that can’t be said about DiMaggio, Between the foul lines he was probably as good a teammate as you can have, but off the field, he just wasn’t there. Maybe with the exception of Billy Martin, who he was close to, but otherwise a lot of his teammates resented him.

Ralph Tyko: Casey Stengel once said that Mickey Mantle was Ty Cobb with power. That’s how good he was, but as you said he was never the same after that injury in the 1951 World Series. But he was still incredibly great after that for many years.

Tony Castro: Mickey might not have been the greatest ballplayer but he was certainly the greatest ballplayer on one leg.

Mickey suffered another serious injury in 1957 when he was sliding into second base and Red Schoendienst fell over him onto his shoulder. Mickey lost a lot of strength in his throwing arm after that.

Ralph Tyko: He also missed the last two or three weeks of the 1961 season when he was battling Roger Maris for the Home Run title. He had Mel Allen’s doctor treat him for what he thought was the flu and the injection caused a big abscess on his right hip.  At that time he and Roger were matching each other homer for homer but he sat out after he got to 54, while Roger went on to break Babe Ruth’s record with 61, without steroids!

Apparently there was a big rift between DiMaggio and Casey Stengel. Casey embarrassed Joe when he asked him to play first base and I don’t think they were very close for the rest of Joe’s time with the Yankees.

Tony Castro: Casey became the Yankee manager in 1949 and he had his own way of doing things. There were a number of players who hated him, primarily because of his platoon system. He believed in the lefty – righty platoon.  Gene Woodling and Hank Bauer were a good example of that. And even Whitey Ford probably lost out on several 20-win seasons because Casey didn’t have a strict rotation. He would save Ford and use him against the best teams. And so sometimes Whitey would go five games between starts. He just didn’t get the starts under Stengel that he would have with a normal rotation.  

Ralph Tyko: It sounds like DiMaggio was a hard guy to get close to. Was there anything about him that was warm and friendly?

Tony Castro: Mantle gives credit to DiMaggio for his first home run. Early in the 1951 season, Joe gave Mickey advice about the pitcher they were facing that day, how he was tipping his pitches. And Mantle went up and hit his first home run off of the guy. Mickey had only kind words to say about DiMaggio the few times I brought it up with him in the early 70s when I interviewed him in Dallas.

Holly Brooke said that Mantle adored DiMaggio and never had an unkind word to say about him, and Holly, as I’ve come to learn, was a lady who never pulled her punches on anything that needed to be said.

The thing a lot of people didn’t realize was that Joe was the consummate Italian for that period. He was from what came to be known as the Little Italy of the San Francisco Bay area. His parents had immigrated here and they didn’t become citizens until after WWII began and a lot of that was because of what happened to Japanese-Americans during the war. Many of them were herded off into detention camps and lost their businesses and it’s a little know fact that the intelligence department wanted to do the same thing with Italian-Americans. They were not allowed to go more that five miles from their homes, which was an imposition on the DiMaggio family because they had two businesses. They had a fishing boat and a family restaurant both were more than five miles from where the family lived. So they had to have friends work for them and their business suffered immensely. The irony is that in the summer of 1941, Joe DiMaggio, their son was the most celebrated American in the country. But it wasn’t just the DiMaggio’s, it was all Italians because of Italy’s position in WWII, and a lot of people didn’t realize this was happening

Golenbock University:

How Mickey Mantle came to wear number 7

Professor Golenbock, Ralph Tyko, and Tony Castro discuss how Mickey Mantle came to wear his iconic number 7.

Ralph Tyko: I often say that as a podcast host I get to talk to the most interesting people and in June, 2016, my co-host Peter Golenbock and I had a wonderful conversation with author Tony Castro about Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.

Castro, is the author of Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son (2002), and DiMag & Mick, Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers (2016) as well as other fine books.  Golenbock wrote Dynasty (1975) and High, Wild and Tight – The Life and Death of Billy Martin, as well as many other bools about the Yankees and Dodgers. So with those two guys on the air it was a good time to talk about two of the greatest Yankees of all time.

The first question I wanted to ask was how Mickey Mantle came to wear his iconic number 7 after being assigned number 6 when he first came up to New York.

It had long been believed that clubhouse man Pete Sheehy had taken it upon himself to give Mantle number 7 when he returned from a rookie season demotion to Kansas City to take some of the pressure off of the youngster. With Babe Ruth identified with number 3, Lou Gehrig, 4 and DiMaggio 5 having Mantle wear number 6 made it seem like the Yankees were expecting The Kid to be the next in line, THE NEXT ONE.

Tony Castro: Mickey met a woman named Holly Brooke in New York where she was a dancer and they became very close. Holly was seven years older than Mickey but he  wanted to marry her and adopt her son. However he couldn’t because his father, Mutt, who was dying,  wanted him to marry a local girl, which he did following his rookie season when he married Merlyn Johnson, his high school sweetheart in December, 1951.

Peter Golenbock: In a way it made the rest of Mickey’s life kind of miserable because he couldn’t  marry the woman he was in love with.

Tony Castro: During his rookie season Mickey had been sent down to the Yankees affiliate in Kansas City where he eventually found his groove and was subsequentially recalled. When he returned to New York he met up with Holly and spent the night with her. She told Mickey that her birthday was June 7 and that the number 7 had always been lucky for her. She then suggested that  Mickey should ask if he can get his number changed to 7.  And so, when Mantle came into the clubhouse the next day he asked trainer Pete Sheehy if he could have number 7, “Big Pete” agreed and the rest is history.

Ralph Tyko: What was the relationship like between Mickey and Joe DiMaggio?  As a fan it had always been my impression that the two didn’t care for each other and that the reason that Mickey was so welcoming and gregarious with new players and rookies, was that he was treated particularly poorly by DiMaggio when he was a rookie and he always remembered that and wanted to treat his teammates differently.

Tony Castro: Mantle was just a very open, gregarious kind of guy, even while playing high school sports. And while Mantle’s father was grooming him to be a ball player, DiMaggio came from a totally different background. Joe’s  family spoke very little English until after World War II and his father took very little interest in baseball. Additionally, as Italian- Americans Joe’s family faced wartime sanctions almost as strict as the Japanese in America, often causing them to lose their jobs and businesses.

Peter Golenbock: DiMaggio was an introvert whose use of the language probably didn’t improve until he became a star with the San Francisco Seals where he had to be more open and vocal.

Tony Castro: Many of the stories that have been written that the pair despised each other are simply not true. The truth is that Mickey was in awe of Joe D. DiMaggio was to Mantle what Mantle was to the rest of us.

The two were teammates who came from different eras and different cultures. They may not have been drinking buddies, but they respected each other. In fact Joe helped Mickey read pitchers when he first came up to the Yankees and Mick’s first major league home run came off a tip by DiMaggio.

If there was any jealousy between the two it came after they were both retired and found that one of their signatures on a piece of memorabilia was worth more than the others.

Whitey Ford,He Knew How to Pitch

October 14, 2020

Allan Blumkin, Hal Bock, George Case and David Hubler, join Ralph Tyko in discussing the career of the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford.

Ralph Tyko:  The death of Whitey Ford at the age of 91, was absolutely a shock to all of us. Whitey was one of six Hall of Famers we lost this year. Joe Morgan, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver and Whitey all passed away between August and October of 2020 while Al Kaline died in April

But we are not here to mourn the loss of the “Chairman of the Board,”  but rather to tell stories, some familiar, some not, and to celebrate the life of Edward Charles Ford.  

Alan Blumkin: Whitey Ford once told a story about when he was first introduced to Yogi Berra in 1949 after Ford had signed with the Yankees. He said they took him down to the locker room and the clubhouse guy said “Eddie, meet Larry. “

In 1949, Ford was pitching in Binghamton and when that season ended, he called up the Yankees to offer his services for the 1949 pennant race. He was only 19 years old, but he was a brash kid from Astoria, Queens.

Ralph Tyko: He had what we used to call “moxie”.

Alan Blumkin: He came up in 1950, was 9-1 and won the fourth game of the World Series over the Phillies to complete the sweep. He then went into the army for two years.

He came back in 1953 and didn’t miss a beat. He became the Yankee’s ace and was the bridge between the retirements of Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat and Allie Reynolds to the next generation of pitchers.

Hal Bock: I have a couple of Whitey Ford stories for you. When Whitey was first signed, maybe 18 years old, the Yankees assigned him to one of their low minor league teams. They were playing in a small town in North Carolina. His manager was Lefty Gomez, who was one of the great Yankee pitchers and a Hall of Famer. But Gomez was not only a great pitcher, he was also a great prankster. He loved to have fun.

So they were in North Carolina and Gomez set a 10 pm curfew. Whitey and one of his teammates were walking around a carnival and they see the Ferris Wheel and it’s ten minutes to ten. Whitey said “Well,  we have time for one ride on the Ferris Wheel and then we’ll go back to the hotel.” So they get on the ride but it was moving very slowly, so slowly that it’s now 10 o’clock and they’re still on the Ferris Wheel! Bad News right?

So they finally get off the ride and sprint back to the hotel. And there waiting for them in the lobby was Lefty Gomez. And he tells them, “You guys are late, you broke curfew. It’s gonna cost you five bucks each.”

But unbeknownst to Ford, Gomez was also at the carnival and saw Whitey and his teammate get on the Ferris Wheel and slipped the ride’s operator $2 to slow it down, insuring that the pair would be late getting back to the hotel.  .  

So now fast forward ten years later and Ford is a star, the best pitcher on the Yankee staff, and they have an Old Timers game at the Stadium and of course Left Gomez was there. Gomez is talking to Whitey and tells him about the prank he pulled on him years earlier. Whitey was outraged (or at least pretended to be) and demanded that Gomez give back the $10 fine. Lefty did, except the fine had been $5 so Whitey made $5 in the deal.

The other story I have occurred during the 1961 All Star game in San Francisco. Whitey was going to be the starting pitcher for the American League and Mickey Mantle would be the starting center fielder.

The day before the game, Peter Stoneham, Horace Stoneham’s son invited Whitey and Mickey to play golf at a prestigious San Francisco club. And Peter tells them to sign his father’s name if they wanted anything. So they bought about $200 worth of golf stuff and put it on Horace Stoneham’s tab. The next day, Horace learned of this and told Whitey,  “I’m willing to forgive that debt if you can retire Willie Mays, but if Mays gets a hit off you, we double the bill to $400.” Mays was at the top of his game at that time and basically owned Whitey – he was nine for twenty against him. But Whitey took the deal and told Mickey about it. So Mays comes to bat in the first inning of the All Star game and Whitey gets two strikes on him and turns his back to the plate and loads up the ball. He said it was the biggest spitball he ever threw, and Whitey was known to have thrown a few. Willie fanned on the pitch, so the debt was erased, and in centerfield, Mickey was jumping and clapping like the Yankees just won the World Series. But that was Whitey. He was a whimsical character, a mischievous guy, who liked to have fun, and was agreat pitcher

Ralph Tyko: I just want to note that we will probably never see pitchers like Whitey, Bobby Shantz, Eddie Lopat, Harvey Haddix and Billy Pierce again. They weren’t big, overpowering strike out pitchers. But they were crafty and they knew how to pitch, not just throw.

David Hubler: I remember watching Whitey when he started the fourth game of the 1950 World Series, and I was in high clover then because the Yankees had already won the first three games. I remember Whitey didn’t complete the game, but he did get thewin. The Yankee’s pitching has not been the same since the days of Ford, and later Ron Guidry, guys who just went in there and won.  

Hal Bock: Guidry was like a modern-day Whitey Ford because he was such a smart pitcher.

Ralph Tyko: Ironically, Guidry was a good friend of Yogi’s. There was a book written by Harvey Araton called “Driving Mr. Yogi,” that chronicled their close friendship.

George Case: Whitey and my dad were guests at a baseball dinner in Trenton, NJ. while Whitey was still in the service. I have a photo of him and my dad at the head table and Whitey was in his army uniform.

He was a terrific pitcher, not overpowering but as we’ve said, he knew how to pitch. He’d change speeds, come three quarters, come over hand, side armed and try to get the hitter to bite on the pitch he wanted him to hit. Whitey was not going to be throwing 100 mph fastballs, he was gonna mix up speeds and keep the batter off balance.

He was a talented pitcher and if Stengel needed to win a ballgame he would go to Whitey and more often than not, he would come out with the win.  

I did a little research on the years Whitey was pitching and my dad was third base coach with the Senators under Mickey Vernon. In 1960, Whitey was 3-1 and 1961 4-0 against the Senators. So, he was able to handle Washington with no problems whatsoever.

He had some great years. In 1961, he was 25-4 which is incredible and in 1963 he was 24-7. If you’re a pitcher in the Major Leagues with that kind of winning percentage, that is just unheard of. Like we said, Whitey was not overpowering, but he knew how to pitch.

Ralph Tyko: How much did Luis Arroyo factor into Whitey’s success?

David Hubler: Yes, Arroyo too was of small stature, but he was lights out as a reliever. The first real relief pitcher I remember on the Yankees was Joe Page and after that Arroyo was probably one of the most prolific closers.

Hal Bock: He was Mariano Rivera before Mariano Rivera.  

Alan Blumkin: In 1962 the Yankees were playing in Detroit very early in the season. It was about 35 degrees that day and both Luis Arroyo and Frank Lary of the Tigers, who was a real Yankee killer, blew their arms out because of the cold weather.  

Hal Bock: I have a question for the panel: We have lost a great pitching rotation this season – Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver and Don Newcombe. Three are in the Hall of Fame and one deserves to be. Four great pitchers of the era from the late fortiesthrough the seventies. I want to know, if you had to win one game, that your life depended on, one game win or lose for all the marbles, which one of those four would you pick as your starter?

Alan Blumkin: Not Newcombe. He was 0-4 with an 8.59 ERA in the World Series.  

Ralph Tyko: You could make a case for any of them and how could you be wrong?

Hal Bock: I’d pick Bob Gibson. Gibson had an attitude on the mound. There’s a famous story – Gibson didn’t like to have visitors to his place of business, i.e. the mound. It was his mound and he was in charge. So one day he was pitching and got into a jam and his catcher Tim McCarver headed out to talk to him. Now Tim McCarver would talk to a wall. He was a chatterbox, who loved to talk to people. So McCarver got to within 10 feet of the mound and Gibson said, “What are you doing here? The only thing you know about pitching is that you can’t hit it!” So McCarver turned around and went back behind the plate.

Alan Blumkin: Gibson had a 1.12 ERA in 1968, and nine shutouts.

Ralph Tyko: And they changed the height of the mound after that season.

Alan Blumkin: I saw an interview with Bobby Richardson on the MLB Network after Whitey passed away and he said they loved to play behind him because there was no wasted motion. Gibson was like that too. He’d get the ball back, get the sign and pitch. There was no adjusting his hat and playing around with the rosin bag. No distractions like that. He said they loved playing behind Whitey.

Hal Bock: When I covered games, I always appreciated a pitcher who went out there and pitched. The Mets used to have a pitcher named Steve Trachsel who would get the ball and walk around the mound, look at the ball and just waste a lot of time. I remember one time somebody yelled from the press box, “Throw the ball, take a chance!” Those guys frustrated me something awful.  

Ralph Tyko: A pitcher with a quicker pace keeps the infield on their toes and makes for a nice clean game. And it doesn’t give the batter the chance to settle in and get ready.

Alan Blumkin: Bob Turley was another great Yankee pitcher, but he blew his arm out in 1958. He pitched three straight games in the 1958 World Series and won the Cy Young award. But then in 1959 he went 8-11 and couldn’t get anybody out.

His last year with the Yankees he gave up a hit to Ryne Duren, the pitcher, who was with the Angels and then gave up a three-run homer to Albie Pearson and that was about it for Turley.

George Case: Albie Pearson was about 5-foot-7,  he looked like a Little Leaguer out there.

David Hubler: We can’t forget Joe Morgan who also died recently. He was one hell of a ball player.

George Case: He was a great ball player. I was shocked when I heard about him. I didn’t even know he was sick. The last time I saw him, he was calling games on television. Terrific player and a lot of the Reds credited him with being the glue that kept them all together because he was surrounded by great players but he gave them that steadiness at second base and he could hit and run. He was a terrific player.

Hal Bock: I remember in the 1975 World Series, Boston and Cincinnati. The game where Carlton Fisk stood at the plate and waved the ball into fair territory, Joe Morgan got the winning hit in the ninth inning of game 7 of that Series.

We lost Don Larson this year too.

David Hubler: You know you’re getting old when your old baseball heroes are dying.

Golenbock University:

Reminiscing about Billy Martin with his son, Billy Jr.

Professor Golenbock is joined by Ralph Tyko and Alan Blumkin as they talk with Billy Martin Jr. about his own life in baseball and his famous and often infamous father.

Ralph Tyko: Would you like to share some memories of your paternal grandmother, Joan Salvini Pesano? I live in the Bay area and during the era of “Billy Ball” she got a lot of publicity and I would imagine she had a lot to do with some of your father’s problems throughout his life.

Billy Martin Jr.  I didn’t get to spend much time with her. She was such a tough woman, she once hit my father over the head with a frying pan! And that probably created some issues, but she made him the tough SOB he was – in both good and bad ways.

He did everything to win her love which was never completely winnable. She was never satisfied with anything he did and she said he always reminded her of the “Jackass” that left her. And if you said that word to my father, you were getting knocked out, because that was a word he heard his whole life. He wanted to change his name because of it, and why he didn’t allow my mother to name me, Alfred Manual III. He said I was gonna him Billy Jr. because there was no way he was going to keep honoring the Jackass that left his mother.

She was a tough woman and I don’t know if he ever truly felt loved by anybody because of what she did to him.

When she met my mother, she barely spoke to her. All she had to say was, “look at her, she’s got blonde hair and blue eyes.” And then she said that at last I look Italian. I didn’t pass muster with her at two years old, so luckily, I didn’t spend too much time with her after that.

Ralph Tyko: That’s a good way of looking at it. You would never pass muster anyway so at least you’re not getting any of the damage      

Peter Golenbock: But you have a good relationship with your own mother ?

Billy Martin Jr.: Oh sure, in fact I was with her today. She’s 80 years old and still a big baseball fan and sill a piece of work.

Ralph Tyko: What’s your earliest memory of being at a ballpark?

Billy Martin Jr.: I’ve always been at the ballpark. I was the drooling baby at the ballpark.

My whole life was going to the ballpark. People always say how great it must have been, but not when you’re four years old and have to go to 80 home games and sit on those plastic seats. It wasn’t always easy. If I didn’t have someone like Robbie Alomar to play wall ball with under the bleachers I’d be going crazy.

But all that being said, I got to be part of some amazing things. I was 15 or 16 shagging balls at Fenway. I was in a uniform and dad was managing the Yankees at the time and I was out by the Green Monster. Lou Pinella hit one off the Monster in batting practice and it made that sound that you don’t hear anywhere else. And I thought, Babe Ruth used to run around on this grass and Joe DiMaggio and I kind of got flooded with all that history of the game in that one moment.

Ralph Tyko: There isn’t a week that goes by where we don’t talk about over achievers on the show and your dad certainly overachieved when he got 12 hits, batted .500 and made that diving catch in the 1953 World Series against the Dodgers.

Billy Martin Jr.: Mickey Mantle told me a great story. My dad actually had 13 hits in that series. One hit was not recorded. Dad hit a ball up the middle on the Pee Wee Reese side of second base, but Jackie Robinson covered so much ground that he dove for the ball and it touched the end of his glove and they called it an error.

Mickey told me this after dad had died. Mickey would take me out to lunch or dinner about once a month and he would tell me these stories about dad. And when he drank, he would try to swat the glasses off my face and when I’d take them off he’s say, “Now you look like that little dago I miss so much.”

But he said that no other second baseman would have even touched that ball and even if he gloved it cleanly there was no way he would have righted himself to throw your dad out at first because your old man was a good runner, but Yogi could have ran out that ball. The thing was that we didn’t know if the official scorer was a racist who wanted to tag Jackie with an error, or was he pissed at your father over something that happened earlier in the season or both? So instead of being tied with other players with 12 hits in a six game series, he actually had 13.

Alan Blumkin: When it got to the World Series your dad turned it up to another level. He outplayed Jackie Robinson in all four series that they faced each other.

Billy Martin Jr: My dad was able to uber-focus in those big games. He could channel all his focus into what he was doing.

Mickey told me a story one time, it was one of their first World Series and  he remembered sitting in the dugout and seeing all the people cacked into the place and there’s your father sliding into second base, spiking the shortstop and getting in his face. And we all said, alright let’s go. He got things started for us. For some reason the brighter lights made him focus more. If there was a World Series Hall of Fame he’d be in it.

Peter Golenbock:  He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame right now as a manager and a player. The reason I have a career as a writer is because your father was so good to me. I wrote in the book “Dynasty” that he was as important to the Yankees as a player as Mickey Mantle or Whitey Ford. And I thought that was my career. I had written the one book, and that was the only book I planned on writing but when he read that he knew who he wanted to write his autobiography.

Billy Martin Jr.: He was everyman. He was a blue collar baseball player. He epitomized what Yankee fans wanted because he didn’t have the talent of Mickey Mantle but he had the grit and the tenacity – I don’t care how damn big you are but we’re gonna go and I’m gonna find a way to beat you. And that was the Yankee way. And that’s why he wasn’t happy anywhere else.

Peter Golenbock: Tell us the donkey story.

Billy Martin Jr. : Basically what happened was that when dad got the Texas Rangers’ job, a lot of local business people were giving him presents and keys to the city, that kind of thing, and some banker gave him a deer rifle, as a welcome to Texas gift.

So he arranged with Mickey to go deer hunting.  They went to a bar and stayed out all night and in the morning drove straight to East Texas to a place where Mickey hunted deer. Mickey went to check in with the owner of the ranch and tells him he’s got Billy Martin with him and asked where he could find some deer. So the owner told him a good location but asks a favor of Mickey. “Before you go, I need you to go out to the barn and shoot my mule. Mickey didn’t want to do it but the guy said that he would be doing him a big favor. The mule was 15 years old and lame and none of them had the heart to do it. So Mickey told him he would take care of it. But Mickey being Mickey, he wanted to mess with my father. He came back out and said  to Billy, “That son of a bitch, he leased the place out to some doctors. I’m going in the barn and shoot his damn mule.” So Mickey walked in the barn and shot the guys mule. But a minute later he heard three more gun shots and then Billy came out and said “I got three of the sucker’s cows too!”

Peter Golenbock: Mickey and Billy were the people closest to each other. That was the most important relationship in both of their lives. Billy ended up being traded away from the Yankees because of an incident that occurred at the Copacabana nightclub in New York. Sammy Davis Jr. was performing that night and there was a group of bowlers from the Bronx at the next table who were screaming really nasty things at Sammy. AndBilly who had seen people doing the same thing to Elston Howard, wouldn’t stand for that and neither would Hank Bauer. So one of the bowlers challenged Bauer, who took him into the bathroom and beat the crap out of him, .and unfortunately for Billy, George Weiss the Yankee GM had never liked him. Billy once told me that when he came up to the Yankees in 1951, had it not been for Casey Stengel, Weiss never would have kept him on the team, But Billy and Jackie Jensen had players minor league ball for Casey in Oakland in 1948 and when Casey manager of the Yankees in 1949 he told Billy, you play one more year down there and I’ll bring you up next season. And Casey was the kind of guy who always kept his promises and so he brought Billy up in 1951. And I’m sure that if Billy had any other manager, he would not have been brought up to the big leagues.

Billy was a tough character, but Casey loved him. He knew what he had in Billy. He was like a second son to Casey. And Billy would give Casey all kinds of shit and get away with it. The veterans couldn’t believe it, but the old man would just wink and smile. That first year, Jerry Coleman,, who was a very fine player, was playing second base and Billy kept nagging the old man that he should be playing at second instead of Coleman. But Billy was Casey’s boy and he wound up making that fabulous catch in the 1952 World Series.

It was a popup near the pitcher’s mound around the time of day where the shadows took over the infield at Yankee Stadium and Joe Collins the first baseman didn’t see it and neither did Phil Rizzuto, the short stop. Billy came charging in and caught the ball at his knees to save the game. Jackie Robinson hit the ball and Roy Campanella would have scored to win the game.

Billy Martin Jr.: Mickey told me another story about when he first came up as a shortstop. It was in spring training and he was looking at all these infielders, wondering who was gonna get cut and he saw this skinny little “dago” and figured he was gonna get cut for sure. And one of the coaches was telling them how to turn a double play and Billy stops him and says, “No that’s not how the old man wants it done. He wants the footwork like this,” and was arguing with the coach. So Mick thinks that’s it for him, he’s getting cut right here. Nest thing you know, the old man comes over and points to Billy and says, ‘that’s exactly how I want it done.” So that’s when Mickey decided that he’d better hang around with that little guy from now on.

Peter Golenbock: Mickey had a very powerful arm but had trouble hitting the first baseman and Casey being the brilliant man that he was – he was as smart as any manager around – decided he was gonna take this boy, who could really run and had a great arm and make him an outfielder. Before all his injuries,  Mantle was the fastest player in the Major Leagues. He ran to first base in 3.7 seconds.

Ralph Tyko: Casey said Mickey was Ty Cobb with power.  

Did your dad talk about his relationship with Joe DiMaggio?

Billy Martin Jr.: Joe DiMaggio as a very quiet, reserved man. But when dad was managing the Yankees and Joie was in town, Joe would come and hang out in his office. They’d swap pleasantries but there was a lot of silence, and not uncomfortable silence. There wasn’t constant banter going back and forth. They had complete trust in each other. It was almost like a big brother relationship.

Peter Golenbock: When Billy came up to the Yankees, Joe was near  the end of his career, but he was still one of the greatest players in baseball at the time. And Billy was hilarious, he used to Imitate Joe. He’d put his uniform on in the same way,, the same order, whatever  Joe did Billy would do the same thing. If Joe would order a half a cup of coffee, so would Billy. And the rest of the players were wondering who is this young kid to be so close to this superstar player.

Billy Martin Jr.: Mickey told me he was in awe of DiMaggio and couldn’t even speak to him and was amazed at how my father could mess with Joe. He told me, “I would just get tongue tied around him, and your dad was playing pranks on him.” Joe took my father under his wing, they were both Italians, from the Bay area and they both came up through the Pacific Coast League.

You know, my father got two hits in his first major league game in the same inning because the Yankees had batted around. And Joe tapped him on the back and told him he had a great game.

One day my father taped the nude Playboy centerfold of Marilyn Monroe on a wall in the locker room. Normally something like that would have put Joe in a foul mood, but he walked over, took it off the wall, crumpled it up and tossed it into the trash. He looked at my father and shook his head. He knew exactly who did it.

Joe appreciated that my father treated him like one of the guys. He wanted to be treated like one of the guys, but a lot of the other players were in awe of him..

Peter Golenbock: Billy once brought Joe a ball to sign, but didn’t tell him that the pen was loaded with invisible ink. Joe always wore these whiter than white shirts and they were pressed and beautiful and so Billy walked over to him and squirted this blue ink all over Joe’s shirt. And the way Billy told it, Joe was just about to go through the roof and Billy had to tell him it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s invisible ink and t will go away in about 20 seconds. But that’s the kind of thing Billy he would do to DiMaggio,  where no one else would even talk to him.

Ralph Tyko: What about Whitey Ford?

Billy Martin Jr.: Think about the dichotomy of those three guys – Billy, Mickey and Whitey. Three best friends who were such different guys from such different backgrounds . My father was a poor guy from the docks in Berkley,  Mickey was a southern boy from Commerce, Oklahoma, and then there was Whitey, “Mr. Slick” from New York. But they all clicked because they all brought such a different perspective to the table.

My favorite story about the three of them goes back to when dad was traded in 1957. Incidentally, when George Weiss traded my father to Kansas City, instead of telling him he had been traded, he said “Oh by the way, you’ll be getting dressed in the other locker room tomorrow,” because the A’s were in town to play the Yankees.  

Mickey and Whitey took dad out the night after he was traded. It  happened to be the night before Whitey was pitching and he never went out the night before he pitched because he wanted to stay home and rest up. But he broke that rule to take dad out to dinner after he had been traded.

They went out, they drank, they were crying and Whitey said to dad tomorrow, on your second at bat, second pitch, I’m groovin’ a fastball right in your honey hole. I’m giving you that. So the next day when my father was rounding the bases after hitting that home run, Whitey was on the mound calling him every name in the book

Peter Golenbock: They were three brilliant, incredibly talented people.  

Ralph Tyko: They stood New York on its ear. Think about how staid and un-fun-loving the Yankees clubhouse was reported to be before those three guys showed up.

Peter Golenbock: The interesting thing about the Mantle, Martin, Ford Yankees is that the Bums, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a reputation for being such fun-loving guys but in reality, they were the biggest stiffs around. They were real schoolboys. They were milk drinkers. And the Yankees who had a corporate image were the real carousers.

Billy Martin Jr.: You talk about the friendships and partying of those old Yankee teams and how those guys had fun. But I think that’s why they were so good in the clutch. They played so well and did so well in big games because they partied and enjoyed themselves and had a good time together. They had that love for each other. You play team sports for your teammates. Otherwise, you would play golf or tennis.

And they had the ability to leave it on the field.

People always asked me if dad yelled at me a lot at home. Yelled at me like he yelled at umpires. But I don’t think he ever yelled at me. He knew that  being away from home so much he didn’t want his time with me to be negative. He’d ask me how I was doing in school because he was counting on you to be the first Martin to graduate from college. So, of course I was gonna do what dad wanted. He didn’t have to yell at me.

Ralph Tyko: You’re managing an independent league team?

Billy Martin Jr.: I managed the Texas Airhogs in the Independent American Association this year. It was quite an experience. It’s basically Double-A baseball. A friend of mine, Donnie Nelson, the President and GM of the Dallas Mavericks, and son of Don Nelson who played for the Boston Celtics  basketball team is part of the management team and asked me to manage the team and he’s a lot bigger than me so I had no choice.

I’ve been an agent for more than two decades but managing was a unique experience, both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I remember going to one of Mickey Mantle Jr.’s high school baseball games and some old bastard yelling “He ain’t no Mickey Mantle’. Like yeah, how many big leaguers are as good as Mickey Mantle. And I’m sure there were people who said that about me and my lack of managerial knowledge. But I had a blast. I’m probably too much of an agent because I cared about my players and my main goal was to get them to the next level. But I had a blast!

Ralph Tyko: We have a man on this station named George Case III who is the son of George Case who was a terrific outfielder for the Washington Senators in the late 30s and early 40s, who tells the same story about being heckled at a Little League game, with his father sitting right there in the stans.

And I want to know what is wrong with our society that drives a person to sit in the stands and heckle a kid or anyone based on their father’s success.

Billy Martin Jr.: That’s why whenever I meet the son of a famous person there’s an instant bond between us. The first time I met George W. Bush, when he was part of the Texas Rangers ownership group, not only did we shake hands but he took his arm and put it around my shoulder and gave me a hug. In some small way we shared the same pain, or burden of having a famous father. Because they always expect you to be your father and as much as we might want to be like our fathers, we’re not. We’re different in many ways.

But Donnie Nelson and I hit it off right away, and I managed against Pete Rose Jr this year and he’s a great guy. He helped me a lot and was someone I could reach out to during the year. He almost won the championship but still took time to be there for me. And we were in the same division and played each other a lot. But he was damn helpful to me.

Peter Golenbock: That’s the interesting thing about minor league ball, it’s not just about winning, but about preparing your players for the next level.

Billy Martin Jr.: When I’m talking to a high school kid who’s about to be in the next draft, they’re all excited about being a professional, being paid to play ball. But then I remind them that their teammates now become their competition, and the don’ t get it. I tell them your roommate might be dropping an “F bomb” every time you get a hit because you’re both competing for a spot at the next level. Because it’s all about getting to the big leagues.

Ralph Tyko: Yet there is a tremendous camaraderie between minor leaguer players even though there is that competition.

Billy Martin Jr.: You’re absolutely right because you get a sense of professionalism.  I’ll give you an example, I had an outfielder in a major league camp who called me about one of his teammates who was also an outfielder. My client called and told me the other guy who was unhappy with his agent and that he recommended me to him. And I told him, he’s kind of your competition. They both hit .290 in their first year, my guy had a little more pop, the other guy had more speed and they were both centerfielders. It was amazing how similar they were. And I asked him, how can you recommend him to me and he said, Billy, I’m my competition. If I hit and do my job, they’ll find a spot or me. If he hits ad does his job, they’ll find a spot for him. And  that’s how a real professional looks at it. He just looks at his own game, not at who’s in front or behind him trying to take his job. He just worries about doing his job and it will all work out.

Ralph Tyko: What was your managerial style?

Billy Martin Jr.: I tried to be intuitive with my players, to understand them and put them in the best position to succeed.. I let my coaches do their jobs. I believed in “Small Ball,’ like my father and my guys always had a green light to go whenever they wanted.

I wanted my players to believe in themselves because if you give a guy confidence they’re gonna do well. It was a unique year for me. I learned a lot but still have a lot more to learn. I don’t know how many years I have left in the dugout but I wanted to do it at least once

Alan Blumkin: How many times did you have to change pitchers during a game?

Billy Martin Jr.: It depended on the game. But I probably taxed my starters less than any manager in the league. I had a couple of my starters complain to mt that I didn’t let their pitch count get over one hundred as often a they wanted but I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s arm.

Ralph Tyko: How did your style differ from your dads?

Billy Martin Jr.:  I never completely took charge of every aspect of the game. I never coached third base. I did like my dad did in Oakland, I let my third base coach make his own calls. I talked to him about how I felt philosophically and we were pretty much on the same page. But he was on his own. Our pitching coach left early in the year, so I had to handle that and I probably didn’t jump on the umpires as much as my father did.

Ralph Tyko: Do you have any aspirations of working you way up the ladder as a minor league coach or manager?

Billy Martin Jr.: No, I have no business there. I have way too much to learn before I could ever even consider stepping into that arena.

Mickey Mantle once told me that he knew my dad was gonna be a great manager because he was always looking for an angle. He would watch a pitcher and notice when he was giving away his pitchers. He would notice where the infielders played and whether anyone would be there to cover second if they tried to steal. And he’d run over and tell Casey.

Peter Golenbock: John McGraw was always reputed to be one of the best managers in the history of the game. McGraw taught Casey Stengel how to manage and then Casey taught Billy.

It’s very interesting to listen to some of his former players talk about Billy. I’m doing a book with Lenny Randall and he played for Billy in Texas and later with the Yankees. Billy was the smartest manager in baseball for a long, ;long time. George Steinbrenner had no idea what he had.  He just knew he was jealous of Billy because the players loved Billy and didn’t love him.

Ralph Tyko: Steinbrenner was cruel because he knew all Billy wanted was the Yankee job and he used that to screw Billy’s life around  five different times.

Peter Golenbock: He was cruel in the same way Donald Trump is cruel, He was a narcissist of the worst sort and he demanded that he got the headlines in the paper every single day. Steinbrenner could not stand it when someone was more popular that he was. And I’m sure that George fired Billy a couple of those times because Billy had the fans in the palm of his hand.  When George fired Billy and brought him back two days later on Old Times Day the fans blew the roof off of Yankee Stadium.

Billy Martin Jr.: That was dad’s favorite moment in baseball.  When they retired his number in 1986, I had a knife made for him and I wanted to have something about his career engraved on the handle. So I asked him what his favorite moment was. II expected him to say something about the 1953 World Series, but he said it was that day when they announced that he was coming back to manage the Yankees at Old Timers Day. He said that was the longest standing ovation in Yankee history.

Peter Golenbock: It was more than 10 minutes, if you can imagine what 10 minutes of a standing ovation is like. The fans were furious that he had been fired.

Alan Blumkin: I was at that game. It was a tremendous outpouring.

Billy Martin Jr.: I asked him why that was so special and he said that not only were his players there, but his old teammates and all the fans, they were all there for this one time announcement and it was awesome.

Ralph Tyko: Can you tell us anything about the relationship between your Dad and Reggie Jackson?

Billy Martin Jr.:  Reggie took shots at him 12 years after he died, saying he was racist and anti-Semitic. But my father was the most color-blind human I’ve ever known in my life.

Peter Golenbock: He helped more Latin American players that any other manager. When Billy was a coach with Minnesota he took Zoilo Versalles under his wing and worked with him. Billy gave him the confidence he needed and Zoilo  became the American League’s MVP in 1965.

And by the way, the Yankees could have had Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in the same outfield if they hadn’t been so racist. They were scouting Willie down in Birmingham. I found a letter in the Yankee archives and I think I put it in the “Dynasty” book. The scouts recommended signing Willie but they wouldn’t do it. The GM was George Weiss. He didn’t want black players because he didn’t want black fans keeping white fans out of Yankee Stadium.

But back to your father, I’m convinced that had he stayed in Oakland and not come back to the Yankees, he would have won a hell of a lot of pennants in Oakland and he’d still be alive. It was so stress free out there for him.

Billy Martin Jr.: I’ll tell you a story, he was managing in Oakland, and  towards the end of the year we were in Texas and all of the other reporters had eft his office to write their stories, except for myself and Randy Galloway. Randy was one of the few guys dad trusted in Oakland. So dad says to Randy, you didn’t hear this from me, and you can release it in about three weeks, but I’ll be managing the Yankees next year. .

And at that point we both said WHY?

Why would he do that? He had color in his face, he had a little bit of a gut, he was happy and eating well, he wasn’t stressed. Look at how gaunt he was in all the Yankee pictures, he was pale and stressed. He looked the best he had looked in years. He was bulletproof in Oakland, It was such a great situation for him there.

But when we asked him why, he said “Because I’m a Yankee!”

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This Date in New Yawk Mets’ History 4/17

April 16, 2021 at 7:37 pm (Comfortably Zoned, This Date in New Yawk Mets' History)

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This Date in New Yawk Mets’ History 4/16

April 15, 2021 at 7:45 pm (Comfortably Zoned, This Date in New Yawk Mets' History)

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Lovin’ Baseball When We Were 12 and Innocent 4/15/21

April 15, 2021 at 3:07 pm (Comfortably Zoned Radio)

Ralph welcomes Jeff Kallman.
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If you enjoy our offerings, we ask that you get in the habit of accumulating lightly used children’s books, and donating them to your local Head Start.

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This Date in New Yawk Mets’ History 4/15

April 14, 2021 at 3:08 pm (Comfortably Zoned, This Date in New Yawk Mets' History)

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The Mets in The Zone 4/14/21

April 14, 2021 at 12:35 am (Comfortably Zoned Radio)

Robert Cole, Ralph Tyko, and Marty Rose, discuss the ramifications of playing a seven inning day-night double- header, that goes into extra innings. They agree, what with the starting pitchers regaining their health, the Mets are about to have a solid bully.
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If you enjoy our offerings, we ask that you get in the habit of accumulating lightly used children’s books, and donating them to your local Head Start.

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This Date in New Yawk Mets’ History 4/14

April 13, 2021 at 3:03 pm (Comfortably Zoned, This Date in New Yawk Mets' History)

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