Reggie Jackson Was a Liar and George Steinbrenner Was Convicted, Said Mr. Martin

Harold FriendChief Writer IMarch 23, 2012

Reggie Jackson Tries to Field a Base Hit
Reggie Jackson Tries to Field a Base HitJim McIsaac/Getty Images

As the New York Yankees were waiting to board a plane from Chicago to Kansas City, Billy Martin told reporters early Sunday evening, "The two men deserve each other. One's a born liar, the other's convicted."

Twenty-four hours later, Bob Lemon was the Yankees manager.

Martin had discovered, or at least he believed he had discovered, that George Steinbrenner had attempted to trade him to the Chicago White Sox for their manager, Bob Lemon. Such an action did not sit well with Martin.

Steinbrenner and Bill Veeck of the White Sox both denied that there had been any direct communication between the teams. Martin interpreted it to mean that Steinbrenner might not keep his promise that he would remain manager for the rest of the season.

At the close of play on July 23, 1978, Martin’s Yankees were in third place, 10 games behind Don Zimmer’s first place Boston Red Sox.

The day after his tirade against Jackson and Steinbrenner, Martin resigned from the only job he ever really wanted. Steinbrenner had been lurking in the background with the constant threat of firing Martin, who had been thinking of resigning almost daily.

He explained why he waited. “…I wanted to give the Red Sox a run."

Reggie Jackson had been suspended for five days because he bunted when Martin had told him to swing away. The Yankees appeared to finally be making a move on the Red Sox, putting Martin and the players in a positive mood.  Steinbrenner and the players supported Jackson's suspension.

Jackson’s return for the upcoming Kansas City series changed all that. Martin became morose and sullen.

Injuries are part of the game, but too many Yankees were injured for the team to make a serious run at the Red Sox, which did occur when the team finally became healthy.

Ten players had been on the disabled list and others had injuries that hampered them but didn’t result in placement on the disabled list. Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph, Bucky Dent and four starting pitchers were disabled at least once prior to Martin’s being replaced by Lemon.

Jackson resented that starting in July, Martin had shuffled him between right field and DH. It reached a point where Martin put Jackson in lineup only as a DH against right-handed pitchers.

No one but Jackson knows why he didn’t follow Martin’s order to bunt. Martin tried to explain.

"That's the mystery," said Martin. "He'd been working hard all year and didn't have a chip on his shoulder. We had talked the day before, and I had told him that I liked him no matter what he had heard and that I would give him a chance to play right field some.”

Martin and Jackson never got along. To Martin, Jackson was Steinbrenner’s boy. He was a player with more money than talent. Jackson didn’t think that Martin treated him fairly.

The rest is history.


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