Yankees Dismiss Martin a 5th Time; Piniella Is Named
Billy Martin’s fifth stint as manager of the New York Yankees ended on Thursday when he was fired and replaced by Lou Piniella, whom he had replaced on Oct. 19.
The firing came at the conclusion of a 2-7 road trip during which the Yankees lost their last four and fell to second place in the American League East, 2 1/2 games behind the Detroit Tigers.
His fifth tenure was as turbulent as his four previous. He was suspended once and fined twice this season for throwing dirt on umpires. He also was involved in a fight in an Arlington, Tex., bar and suffered facial injuries.
Martin was offered another job in the Yankees’ organization. It was not immediately known what the job was or whether Martin would accept it.
The Yankees clubhouse was closed to reporters before Thursday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians. Martin was not available for comment.
Piniella, still under the managerial contract he signed before the 1986 season, had been the general manager until he abruptly resigned on May 29. He led the Yankees to a 179-145 record in the 1986 and 1987 seasons, but club owner George Steinbrenner became angry with him and did not speak with him for weeks at a time.
This is the 15th managerial change for the Yankees since Steinbrenner bought control of the team on Jan. 3, 1973. Piniella joins Martin, Gene Michael and Bob Lemon on the list of people of have had at least two managerial terms under Steinbrenner.
The Yankees said in a press release that the change was mutually agreed to by Steinbrenner and Bob Quinn, who replaced Piniella as general manager.
Eddie Sapir, Martin’s lawyer, said from New Orleans that he had been told by Quinn that “on authorization from Steinbrenner, all the terms and conditions in Billy’s contract will be honored in their entirety.”
Sapir said he and Martin would meet with Steinbrenner next week.
“I guess some things are still surprising to me,” Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly said, “even though I’ve pretty much learned here to expect the unexpected. I feel bad for Billy.”
“When I walked into the clubhouse today, everything was real quiet, and I said ‘Whoops!’ and then I saw our clubhouse guy emptying out lockers,” third baseman Mike Pagliarulo said. “Being here, you just have to learn how to deal with changes.”
The Yankees, who led the AL East from May 3 until June 19, were knocked out of first place this week when they lost a three-game series to the Detroit Tigers.
Martin’s moves, especially with the pitching staff, were criticized as erratic by Yankees players in off-the-record interviews, and Steinbrenner earlier this week expressed concern about Martin’s health, which in the past was a sign that a change was about to happen.
Martin’s fifth term was filled with as much turmoil as his earlier ones.
On May 6, Martin threw dirt on umpire Tim Welke after being ejected for arguing a strike call in a game against the Texas Rangers. Martin was fined $300 by the American League for that incident.
It was after that game that Martin was injured at the Texas bar.
On June 2, he was suspended for three games and fined for kicking and tossing dirt on umpire Dale Scott, setting off a confrontation with the umpires’ union. The umpires threatened to eject Martin if he didn’t sit in the dugout with his hands folded and his mouth shut.
After Commissioner Peter Ueberroth intervened, Martin apologized and the umpires withdrew their ejection threats.
The Yankees, in firing Martin, also reshuffled their coaching staff.
Stan Williams succeeded Art Fowler, Martin’s close friend, as pitching coach. It was the 22nd change of pitching coaches for the Yankees under Steinbrenner.
Fowler, along with third-base coach Clete Boyer and “eye-in-the-sky” coach George Mitterwald, were offered reassignment. Michael was named the new third-base coach.
First-base coach Mike Ferraro, bullpen coach Jeff Torborg and batting coach Chris Chambliss will remain with the club in their current capacities.
Martin, who has a career record of 1,258-1,018, said earlier this week that he would never manage the Yankees again if he was replaced now.
Steinbrenner’s rehiring of Martin last fall shocked many, but was only another episode in the often stormy and turbulent relationship between Steinbrenner and Martin.
Martin had been fired from his fourth term on Oct. 27, 1985, just before the start of Game 7 of the World Series between Kansas City and St. Louis. He had become Yankees manager again that April 28, replacing Yogi Berra 16 games into the season.
He was distant from many of his players in that term and was involved in bar fights on consecutive nights in Baltimore.
On Sept. 20, 1985, he got into a fight with a bar patron at the Cross Keys Inn, where the Yankees were staying. The next night, he broke his arm as he fought Yankees pitcher Ed Whitson in a scrap that moved from the hotel lobby, into an elevator and into a parking lot.
Although the Yankees were 91-54 under Martin, Steinbrenner decided to make switch to Piniella.
In 1986 and 1987, Martin was an advisor to Steinbrenner and a television commentator on Yankees’ broadcasts.
Martin’s first term as Yankee manager was his most successful. He replaced Bill Virdon on Aug. 2, 1975, two weeks after being fired by the Texas Rangers.
In 1976, New York won the its first American League pennant since 1964 and in 1977, the Yankees won the pennant and took the World Series from the Dodgers in six games.
But the Yankees fought while they won. Martin nearly brawled with Reggie Jackson in the dugout at Fenway Park on June 18, 1977. It was a dispute with Jackson that led to Martin’s first Yankee firing the next season.
On July 18, 1978, Jackson ignored Martin’s instructions to bunt in a game. Jackson was suspended for five days. Martin continued to show anger at his star player and on July 23 at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, Martin said of Jackson and Steinbrenner: “One’s a born liar; the other’s convicted.”
Martin resigned in tears the next day on a hotel balcony in Kansas City, Mo., and he was replaced by Lemon. Just five days later, Steinbrenner announced that Martin would return as manager in 1980.
Steinbrenner could not wait that long, and Martin returned for a second term on July 18, 1979. The Yankees, shaken by the death of Thurman Munson, were 55-41 under Martin, finishing fourth, and he was fired on Oct. 29.
He went to the Oakland Athletics for three seasons and was twice named AP American League Manager of the Year. The A’s finished second in 1980 and won the West in 1981.
They fell to fifth the next season. After he was refused a contract extension, he ripped apart his office in frustration.
He returned to New York for his third term on Jan. 11, 1983, joking with Steinbrenner at a Yankee Stadium news conference. Again there was trouble. On June 14, he destroyed a urinal at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland and three days later he directed an obscene tirade at a female New York Times reporter.
The Yankees were 91-71, finished third behind the Baltimore Orioles and Martin was fired on Dec. 4, with Berra replacing him.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.