On Christmas Day of 1989, a very well known sports figure was killed when his car slid on some ice on the driveway of his farm in Port Crane, New York, and went into a ditch.
To say that Billy Martin was “colorful” would be a huge understatement. Volatile would be closer to the truth, but so would “highly successful”.
Martin had rocky relationships with just about everyone that crossed his path, a trait that he inherited from his parents. His father (Alfred Manuel Pesano Sr) abandoned his family 8 months after he was born. Although his actual name was Alfred Manuel Pesano Jr., his mother changed the family name to Martin after she married her third husband, whose name was Jack Downey.
Martin had a moderately successful career as a player, but his mercurial temperament caused him to play for 7 different teams in his 7-year career.
His true gift was as a manager. Over a period of 19 years, his winning percentage was a respectable .553. He took every team that he coached to post season play, some of them more than once. Because he was “hard to get along with”, he signed 9 separate management contracts with 5 different teams, and he was hired (and fired) by the Yankees 5 times.
Not surprisingly, he had a rocky relationship with his 4 wives, one of whom he married a year before his death.
Even though he fought frequently with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, he was working for him AGAIN as a special consultant at the time of his death. He is buried 150 feet from the grave of Babe Ruth in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York. He was eulogized by Cardinal John O’Connor at. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, and his funeral was attended by George Steinbrenner, former president Richard Nixon, and many former New York Yankee greats.
Billy Martin was never afraid to speak his mind when talking his umpires, and the most famous example of that is when he was ejected from a game on May 30, 1988:
Baseball is no longer considered to be “America’s game” because many people fining it boring to watch. If Billy Martin were still alive, though, it would be an awfully lot more interesting.