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The definitive biography of one of baseball's most celebrated, mercurial, and misunderstood figures

Billy Martin is a story of contrasts. He was the clutch second baseman for the dominant New York Yankees of the 1950s. He then spent sixteen seasons managing in the big leagues, and is considered by anyone who knows baseball to have been a true baseball genius, a field manager without peer. Yet he's remembered more for his habit of kicking dirt on umpires, for being hired and fired by George Steinbrenner five times, and for his rabble rousing and public brawls. He was combative, fiery, intimidating, and controversial, yet beloved by the everyday fan. He was hard on his players and even harder on himself. He knew how to turn around a losing team like no one else - and how to entertain us every step of the way.

Now, with his definitive biography Billy Martin, Pennington finally erases the caricature of Martin. Drawing on exhaustive interviews with friends, family, teammates, and countless adversaries, Pennington paints an indelible portrait of a man who never backed down for the game he loved. From his shantytown upbringing in a broken home; to his days playing for the Yankees when he almost always helped his team find a way to win; through sixteen years of managing, including his tenure in New York in the crosshairs of Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin made sure no one ever ignored him. And indeed no one could. He was the hero, the antihero, and the alter ego - or some combination of all three - for his short sixty-one years among us.

About the Author

Bill Pennington

BILL PENNINGTON is an award-winning sportswriter for The New York Times. A former syndicated columnist, Pennington was a beat writer who covered much of Billy Martin's tenure with the New York Yankees. A 14-time finalist and six-time winner of the Associated Press Sports Editors annual writing award, Pennington lives with his family in Warwick, New York. This is his fourth book.


Why did you decide to write this biography about BILLY MARTIN?

As a young reporter in the mid-1980s, I was a traveling beat writer with the Yankees and covered two seasons when Billy was manager. I knew him well, and even 25 years after his death, I always considered him one of the most magnetic, entertaining, sensitive, humane, brilliant, insecure, paranoid, dangerous, irrational and unhinged people I had ever met. He was a completely unforgettable character and personality and I always wondered if I would write a biography of him. It seemed like his story needed a little time to percolate and to find its place in history.

Finally, with the perspective of time - and a little nudging from my editor - I knew it was time to tell the whole story of a complex, flawed, renowned, and yet largely misunderstood, figure in American sports.

What was your relationship with Billy Martin?

For years, we were together for hours daily before and after games, even longer during spring training or on the road when I accompanied Billy on countless team planes or buses (beat writers traveled with the pro teams in those days) . He and I were friendly, albeit more like business associates. I knew his many moods, his pet peeves and little known interests, like Western-themed novels and Civil War history.

What research did you perform for the book?

I spent nearly three years researching the book. In addition to persuading each of Billy's four wives to communicate with me - something no other journalist has done for a book or article -- I interviewed nearly 250 people, going as far back as Billy's childhood friends from the 1930s in Berkeley, California. I spoke with his minor league teammates from the 1940s and dozens of his teammates and enemies when he was a star player for the Yankees in the 1950s. I retraced each of his managerial stops from Denver to Minnesota to Detroit to Texas to New York to Oakland and back to New York during four more stints in the dugout. I conducted dozens of interviews with players, coaches, rivals, umpires and team executives in each of those cities.

I benefitted from the cooperation of Billy's only son, Billy Joe, and Billy's sisters, brother and many cousins. Moreover, I returned to the site of his fatal 1989 auto accident and talked with dozens of people living in upstate New York - like Billy's housekeeper and neighbors - who spent ample time with him

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