Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Billy Martin

Claim to fame: The fiery manager of the Bronx Zoo New York Yankees in the 1970s, Martin also did well in stops at Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, and Oakland. He thrived wherever he went, having just three losing seasons in 19 years and going 1,253-1,013 overall. Despite this, he is remembered perhaps as much for his off-field antics, his many firings at the hands of George Steinbrenner (they even once did a commercial making light of it), and his alcohol-related death in 1989 at 61.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Martin is on this year’s Veterans Committee ballot, along with Steinbrenner and two of their best pitchers in those years, Ron Guidry and Tommy John. The committee will announce its voting results at the annual winter meetings in Orlando, Florida on December 6.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? My short answer is yes. Martin did well in too many stops, and his record should speak louder than his questionable character (on a side note, was it really terribly worse than many men already enshrined?) The same should be said of Dick Allen, Dave Parker, and Albert Belle, in my book. But then, controversial figures generally have a hard time getting into Cooperstown. I’d vote for all four of these men, but I don’t know how many other people would.

Traditionally, the committee, in its various forms over the years and the Hall of Fame in general prefers establishment-friendly candidates. It’s why I figured Whitey Herzog would get voted in last year after he, Martin, Danny Murtaugh, and Gene Mauch appeared on the ballot. It’s the same reason I think Steve Garvey will get in this year. When in doubt, Hall of Fame voting is generally conservative, particularly with the Veterans Committee in recent years, and I suppose arguments could be made for or against this.

All this being said, if Martin were to get into the Hall of Fame, he’d have a spot in one of its most exclusive wings. This summer, Herzog became just the 20th person enshrined as a manager. Men like Connie Mack, John McGraw, and Casey Stengel are there. Al Dark, Bill Rigney, Charlie Grimm and many others are not. There are so many solid managers not in Cooperstown that a few months back I suggested there be a hybrid wing for skippers who also played.

Technically, Martin could qualify for this too since he played 11 years in the majors, making the American League All Star team in 1956 and serving as one of Mickey Mantle’s running partners on the Yankees of the Stengel-glory-years 1950s. Still, I think Martin’s managerial credentials should be sufficient to earn him a plaque.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Al OliverAlbert BelleBert BlylevenCecil TravisChipper JonesDan QuisenberryDave ParkerDon Mattingly, Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerJack MorrisJoe CarterJohn SmoltzKeith HernandezLarry WalkerMaury WillsMel HarderPete Browning, Rafael Palmeiro, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve GarveyThurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark

10 Replies to “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Billy Martin”

  1. Of course he does. One of the main criteria is to ask the question, “What would the game look like, or be like had so and so not played/managed/owned, etc..” Try and picture baseball from the early 50’s to the late 80’s without his fiery presence. Everywhere he went he improved teams, taking the bad/mediocre and turning them into good clubs and taking good clubs and making them pennant winners and world champions.
    Was Billy any more pugnacious than John McGraw or Leo the Lip? Anymore outspoken than Tommy LaSorda or Casey Stengel? Controversial? How about Ozzie Guillen?
    You can’t think Billy Martin and not think baseball any more than you can think baseball without a Billy Martin.

  2. The above-expectations performances of Billy Martin’s Twins, Tigers, and Rangers teams lead me to support his HOF candidacy, but issues with his Yankees and A’s team leave me hesitant. His ’78 Yankees were a talented group that went on to win the World Series, but it’s curious that they played so much better after Martin was dismissed (52-42 under Martin, 48-20 under Bob Lemon). Also, Martin’s handling of the A’s pitching staff is a lesson in how not to nurture young pitchers. His 1980 team posted 94 complete games – this at a time when the trend toward shorter outings by starters was already underway. Perhaps not surprisingly, Rick Langford (61 complete games in three seasons under Martin) never pitched more than 60 innings in a season after 1982.

  3. I’ve heard over and over again that he didn’t play long enough.However ,if you really knew about the game a catcher’s life span is a lot shorter then say a outfielder or pitcher.So on that note lets say a catcher really puts up good numbers for 5 of the 10 years.Then why is THURMAN MUNSON kept out of the hall?All the things that are keeping Mattingly out should be the things that put MUNSON in.ALSO ,how in the world is Whitey Herzog voted in the hall when BILLY MARTIN is on the same ballot.THIS IS WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS GAME.Have people who played against,managed against vote for the hall and not a writer
    who doesn’t know what it’s like playing with a injury,or neverplayed the game.

  4. Billy Martin was the best manager during my era as a kid.You
    had WEAVER,ANDERSON,HOUK,LASORDA,but Billy took teams
    from jokers and loosers to winners and not beating yourself.
    I was really dumbfounded when Whitey Herzog made the HALL and BILLY was on the same ticket.Do you really think Whitey was a better manager the Billy Martin?People will say
    o he had a problem with the booze.I thought he was being voted into the baseball hall of fame, not the perfect man hall of fame.WHAT A JOKE.Players who were on roids are now in.[PUDGE RODRIGUEZ],PLAYERS with a drnking problems, maybe 40% of the hall,racists [COBB] WIFE BEATERS,CHEATERS[PERRY].THAT’S THE AMERICAN WAY

  5. In response to the title of this article, I’d have to say “No, absolutely not.” We can try and make excuses for Billy Martin’s behavior — about his rough childhood, his relatable human flaws — until we’re blue in the face. In the end, plain and simple, there is no denying that Billy Martin thrived on hatred, shame, and turmoil. His conduct was absolutely shameful; the true definition of doing the devil’s bidding. He could have made the choice to swallow his pride and find a higher power to lift him out of the darkness, as so many have chosen to do in this tough world we live in. But instead, he chose to run with the devil throughout his entire miserable existence. Such a waste of potential, as many who knew Billy Martin on a competitive level saw real baseball genius in him. But he chose his own downward path, he fueled pettiness and blight-of-spirit in the good game of baseball. For this, I hope he never gets close to being elected to the Hall.

    1. He should be judged by what was done between the white lines.
      Cobb was a racist,Ruth a drunk,. It is the baseball hall of fame, NOT
      the most well behaved man to ever walk the earth. Please , as manager he was as good as any of them.MANTLE,FORD drunks
      JIMMY FOXX .

  6. Yes Billy my father-in -law for 7 years was a great gut my daughter Billy granddaughter got a baseball scholarship from Lake Mendocino JC for baseball to William Penn Ill Billy had already died Christmas day 1989Yes he should be in the HALL OF FAME went to a lot of games when he was manager of the Oakland A’S manager just buy calling him up for tickets LOVE U BILLY

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