Growing up being a Yankee fan, I have seen some of the Greatest players come thru this storied franchise. My fondest memory was getting to watch Mickey in his late years play but the truth is his better days were behind him. But the one thing that always stuck with me was our owner George Steinbrenner and team manager Billy Martin.
Now for some of you younger Yankee fans, before George took over this team from CBS, I can tell you first hand we were a mess as an organization. Perhaps some of the older Yankee fans who post on this board can attest to this.. The days of Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, were just distant memories and for a long time it appeared that the NY Yankees would never recapture those glory days of its winning tradition. The tradition that most of us are screaming for in recent years.
Then one day, a ship builder named George Steinbrenner bought the team. No one outside of the business community really knew who George was. But, we soon found out that George was like no other professional team owner. Maybe Al Davis comes close because winning is everything to them. But, when you think about it, don't we really want that for every team we root for?.. I know I sure do..
Though his meddling and interference caused more harm than good, I soon grew to dislike his ways. His narcissistic attitude, self promoting and selfish style turn me off to the point that I considered becoming a Los Angels Dodger fan for a while.( heaven forbid) Before I knew what the Wall street journal was, I grew up reading the Daily news and then the NY Post and News day. Boy talk about always being on the back pages of those NY tabloids?. And until his recent illness, we can see remember George in his turtle neck sweater right smack on the back pages. Didn't matter if it was off season or during baseball season. George always manged to get his face on the back pages.
George was the only reason I believe that keep these newspapers in business. And who can forget during Super bowl week when most others were discussing the upcoming game there was good old George, signing some big time free agent like Catfish Hunter or Mr. October himself Reggie Jackson and stealing the headlines. And let's not forget the biggest contract during this time was good old Dave Winfield.. Imagine signing a player for 10 years at 20 millions dollars?.. Damm.. A-Rod and list of other current Yankees make more in a year now!... Is it a wonder the Yankee's are hated so much?..
I actually did my senior college paper on George Steinbrenner. My professor was so impress on my research that he actually sent a copy of it to George himself. Not until I got a letter from the NY Yankees did I know what my professor did. I got an invite to the stadium during the off season to meet with him. I'll tell you about that one day on another thread.
But what I learned from my research about our owner was more than the average fan can imagine. His hard nose football style of running a business made this Yankee organization a power house that it is today. Yeah, he had help but then again tell me one smart business owner today that never surrounded himself with people who were smarter than him and I will show you an organization that is doom to fail. The one thing I will say again, as much as I disliked our owner I realized I was blinded and influenced by the media for their dislike for him. I understand the passion of what the Yankees mean to George. Perhaps, my passion of NY Yankees comes from him. Owning the NY Yankees was not enough for George, he wanted to consume them to the point were his name and the NY Yankees are one and the same. And that I think he has succeed in.
So, what brings me to discuss this?.. Well, another Yankee I mentioned early Alfred Manuel Martin. Better know to us as Billy Martin. A five time manager of the NY Yankees. Some of us who seen Martin mange know he was a hot temper lunatic. He would kick you in the seat of your pants if you didn't hustle or bust out an infield grounder. Outside of Lou Piniella has baseball seen such a display from a manager.. But, if we all remember, Sweet Lou was a step son to Billy. He took him under his wing and showed him how this game of baseball should be played. Hard nose, no-sense manager who taught his players if an opposing team knocked down you best hitter, well, you go out and take out their shortstop or second basemen!. Do some of us remember Bill Spaceman Lee of the Red Sox? That famous brawl Nettles, Piniella, Carlton Fisk had at home plate? Thats what Billy taught his players. Take no prisoners!..
After hiring him and firing him five times and this soap opera continuing, I truly was getting feed up with the Yankee organization and thought wow, was it really so bad when CBS owned us?. I am not proud to say this but I sure wished during this time CBS did own us. At least we wouldn't be the laughing stock of baseball. But as I got older I understood what the Yankees meant to Billy and George.
One time as a player, Billy got a brush back pitch by a pitcher from the Chicago Cubs named Jim Brewer. Billy was so upset that he charged the mound and threw a bat at him. When Brewer picked the bat up Billy punched him so hard in the eye that it broke Brewers check bone!. The Cubs sued Billy for one million dollars because Brewer was on the DL for two months and the Cubs wanted compensation. Billy served a 5 game suspension and in court the judge ordered Billy to pay a $10,000 civil fine to the Cubs. Billy who took no crap from anyone told the judge would you like me to pay that in cash or in a check!..
Billy was tutored under another one time GREAT Yankee manager named Casey Stengel. Although I never got to see Casey manage, I did learn one thing fast; Casey didn't tolerate laziness and he protected his ball players. If an opposing team went head hunting on any Yankee hitter, well Casey never stood for it. He groomed Billy to be his little pit-bull. If Casey went to Bill and told him to take out their Short Stop or Second basemen because Mantle or Yogi got hit by a pitch, Billy would do it. If the Yankees were stunk in a rut and were losing, Casey would send Martin out there to start a fight and wake the bats up.
Some of us remember Billy as the Yankee manager who went after umpires and kicked dirt on them. I never understood why he did this but as I got older, I realized what he was saying simply was the umpire is lower than dirt. How I laugh knowing this now but boy it was exciting seeing this little guy go nose to nose with some big boys. Do we all remember the time he and Reggie went at it in the dugout?. Well, my money was on Billy if he had a chance to hit Reggie.
Some of us also know Billy as the Yankee Brawler because of that famous night in NYC at the Copacabana where he knocked out two guys for giving Mantle a hard time. So many different reports about that night its hard to decide what really happen but Billy understood you don't mess with the Golden goose. Casey taught him well. So well that within a week of knocking out two patrons, Billy Martin was traded to the KC Royals. He and Casey never spoke after the trade. Billy felt that Casey betrayed him and should of stood up to the Yankee organization an not allow him to be traded. I once heard a statement Billy said about his playing days as a Yankee... It went something like this.. I may not have been the best player to wear this uniform but I sure was the proudest one to wear it.. WOW..
So where does this lead me?.. Well, I cry out and ask, where have you gone George Steinbrenner and where are the Billy Martin's today?
Where is the pride that once meant something when you put on those pinstripes? The history of players and owners who sacrificed their careers and took crap from opposing fans and the media to make fans like me appreciate what they stood for?.
Where are the Billy Martin's who played with heart and if a guy like Jacoby Ellsbury stood your team up, well he might find himself in the hospital with a broken check bone?.. Where is our Billy Martin on this team that if you hit Jeter or A-Rod your second basemen or Short stop might have his knee snapped in two?.. Where is the Billy Martin on this team that can wake up this Yankee team when its floundering like it is today?..
There was only one George Steinbrenner.. The owner I know who if in charge today would be on the back of the NY newspaper telling Joe if things don't improve, I will replace you. I know of only one Billy Martin; the manager. But boy I wish I got to see Billy play and how I wish we had him on our team today!!
Hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed remembering..