A full discussion of Billy Martin’s fights would probably take several days to write. That’s why, in my post this morning about the Martin-Jim Brewer affair, I limited myself to two incidents from Martin’s time as a manager.
But several readers have provided me with some Minnesota-specific altercations that are worthy of note. William Terrell recalls Martin’s first (I think) bout as a manager, in 1969, Martin’s first year as a major league manager. It pitted the skipper against pitcher Dave Boswell (oddly, this fight too occurred in the first week of August):
Boswell, if I recall correctly, was beaten up quite badly by his then-manager Martin. Stunning when one considers that (a) they were in the pennant race (they ultimately won the division), and (b) Boswell was one of his best pitchers (along with Jim Perry).
Paul Happe, in addition to citing the Boswell fight, writes:
Howard Fox of the Twins was the first MLB travelling secretary punched out by Martin, after a night of drinking at Howard Wong’s restaurant. Perhaps the most famous storied altercation occured between Martin and marshmallow salesman Joseph Cooper at a Minneapolis hotel before the 1980 season, which led to the end of his second stint as Yankees manager.
It strikes me that hanging out with Billy Martin must have been like being part of Joseph Pesci’s crew in Goodfellas.
As a player, Martin’s most famous fight was probably with Jimmy Piersall. He also had two bouts with Clilnt Courtney, including an epic melee in 1953. Later, Courtney was the catcher when Tex Clevenger fractured Martin’s jaw and cheek bone, ending his 1959 season.
Then, of course, there is the altercation at the Copacabana that ended Martin’s career as a Yankee player. I wrote about that incident here.
JOHN adds: Billy Martin made quite an impression during his short tour of duty here in Minnesota. Some Twins fans still yearn for his return, or–that being impossible–the return of someone like him. His fight with Boswell was noteworthy in part because in 1969, Boswell was a 20-game winner and probably Martin’s best pitcher. If I remember correctly, my good pal Clark Griffith considers Boswell his all-time favorite Twin. Yet Martin had no compunction about knocking him silly. Give Martin his due; he didn’t just go after clubhouse hangers-on and marginal players, he was willing to KO his best pitcher. That could be said, I suspect, of very few managers.