Billy Martin, the embattled New York Yankee manager, suffered a broken right arm in a fight with pitcher Ed Whitson early Sunday at a Baltimore hotel.
Martin held an impromptu news conference when he reported to Memorial Stadium for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles with his arm in a cast and a sling.
“I think it happened when he (Whitson) kicked me,” Martin said of the broken bone in the forearm. “He kicked me once in the groin and once in the arm.”
Whitson, who reportedly suffered a cut lip, was sent home. His agent, Tom Reich, said that the pitcher wouldn’t comment on the incident, although Reich indicated that Whitson’s version differed somewhat from Martin’s.
The latest in a series of brawls involving the fiery Martin was described by a security guard at the Cross Keys Inn as “one of the most brutal fights I’ve ever seen.”
Martin had a patch on his left elbow and assorted bruises, which he said came from people who were trying to restrain him.
Members of the Yankee traveling party said that the brawl started in the same hotel bar in which Martin was involved in a shoving match with a patron Friday night.
Players and members of the media tried to break up the fisticuffs. But onlookers said that the fight continued each time Whitson broke free and extended into the hotel lobby and the parking lot, finally ending with a shouting and cursing match between the manager and pitcher on the third floor of the hotel.
Martin contended that he became involved after trying to act as a peacemaker in a budding fight between Whitson and an unidentified patron.
“I was sitting at the end of the bar, talking with (infielder) Dale Berra and his wife, and Whitson was in a booth,” Martin said. “A guy told me, ‘You’d better get over there, Whitson’s in trouble.’
“Dale and I went over,” Martin said, “and he had a guy straightened up, like he was going to belt him. I told him, ‘Hey, don’t get in trouble . . . you don’t need it.’
“I don’t know what he said, but he turned on me and went crazy,” Martin said. “He kicked me a couple of times. That’s when I got hot and tried to pop him. I don’t deny that.
“I tried to fight, but I can’t fight feet,” Martin said. “I don’t think I hit him, but I know Dale popped him.
“I wasn’t trying to fight, I was trying to break up a fight,” Martin insisted. “If I was fighting, he would have been knocked out from the beginning.”
Reich said he didn’t want to comment on the fight because “there’s so many discrepancies. But before anything is said, I want to find out all the facts and then meet with George (Steinbrenner, the team owner). The discrepancies start with who started the fight. . . . There are serious discrepancies as to who did what to whom.”
Steinbrenner, reached by telephone in Florida, told the New York Times that he had dispatched General Manager Clyde King and vice president Woody Woodward to investigate the incident.
“I don’t know what to think because I don’t have any real facts,” Steinbrenner said. “Needless to say, it’s not a pleasant thing. It’s not something I’m happy about. . . . The thing that concerns me is what players were doing out after curfew. We have a curfew of three hours after a night game but 1 a.m. the night before a day game, and Saturday was a day game.”
There was speculation that Whitson may have been seething over losing a starting turn Friday night, when Martin replaced him with Rich Bordi in the first game of the Baltimore series.
Will Whitson ever pitch for Martin again?
“If he can help us win a pennant, he’s pitching,” Martin said. “I’ve always said I’d play Hitler, Mussolini, whoever--I don’t have to like the guy.”
Those comments were contrary to what Martin had said after the brawl. At that time, the enraged Martin said he would fine Whitson and “suspend him for the rest of his life. That’ll catch his attention.”
Martin said he would discuss the situation with Steinbrenner.