George Steinbrenner Kept Billy Martin Hidden from Everyone After He Fired Him

Harold FriendChief Writer IMay 15, 2012

No Longer Undercover
No Longer UndercoverT.G. Higgins/Getty Images

Marty Appel, in his must-read book, Pinstripe Empire, provides great insight into Billy Martin's comments that forced the New York Yankees to fire him in 1978.

After Reggie Jackson's suspension was lifted on July 23, Martin didn't put him in the lineup. Speaking to reporters Murray Chass and Henry Hecht, Martin explained that if Jackson didn't keep his mouth shut, he wouldn't play.

"If he doesn't shut his mouth, he won't play, and I don't care what George says. He can replace me right now if he doesn't like it," wrote Appel.

Then Martin made the now-classic statement, which is also in the book.

"The two of them (Jackson and Steinbrenner) deserve each other. One's a born liar; the other's convicted."

Appel relates that New York Yankees' publicity director Mickey Morabito met with general manager Al Rosen and Martin. Breaking into tears, Martin said, "Tell George I didn't say those things."

Martin was fired and Bob Lemon took over, but as Yogi Berra said, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Steinbrenner did something that seemed unthinkable. He did something that only his mind could create. No one but the Yankees' owner knew what was going to happen.

On Old-Timers' Day, Steinbrenner had Martin brought to Yankee Stadium and had him hidden. Only Steinbrenner, Martin, Ron Guidry and the great Bob Sheppard knew what was going to transpire.

Sheppard, as only he could say it, announced to the 46,711 fans on July 29, “The manager for 1980, and hopefully many years to come...number one...Billy Martin.”

The crowd went wild. Steinbrenner knew it would, which was one reason that he wanted Martin to return.

A fascinating side note, as reported by Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger, was that Joe DiMaggio had been upstaged. He was so offended that he threatened to stop appearing at Old Timers' events.

The players saw Martin, discovered what was going to happen and hid the past and future Yankees manager in the runway.

“All the Old-Timers were in the dugout and they were hiding Billy up in the runway somewhere,” Graig Nettles said. “The players, it caught us all by surprise. None of us knew the announcement was happening. It was just odd.”

Chris Chambliss summed it up.

“Once you’ve been around Billy and George, you know that Billy Martin was born to manage the Yankees,” Chambliss said. “It may have been a little bit of a surprise. But at the same time, when you think about it, it’s always logical.”